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"Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies": Mild Assault on the Funny Bone

In a bid not to be completely lost amidst all the Spongebob movie hoopla, Nickelodeon stablemate Jimmy “I once got Jack Valenti so drunk I woke up with an Academy Award nomination” Neutron has released his fifth compilation DVD – Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies. Contrary to current theatrical trends, Nickelodeon’s CGI franchise about the boy inventor has often been overshadowed by its 2D peers. Although unlikely to change this circumstance, Attack reminds us that Jimmy does deserve a second look.

ImageAt first glance it’s easy to dismiss Jimmy Neutron as a bland kiddy show and reach for the remote. In fact this is what I did, but after recovering two mismatched socks and $1.67 I realized finding the remote was probably a lost cause. Certainly everything about the show’s look and sound make it look like a touchy-feely Sesame Street segment. However, if you can keep that trigger finger still for a few minutes you may find that beneath the generic plots and clichéd characters lies some pretty solid comedic writing. As with Spongebob, a large portion of the humor derives from tossing out subversive remarks in such an outwardly wholesome program, as if Big Bird suddenly started heckling the neighborhood kids. He wouldn’t have to say anything extremely clever, just the fact that the king of kindness was dissing youngsters would be amusing.

Attack of the Twonkies contains the titular double episode and three regular episodes. In “Attack,” Jimmy accidentally brings back cute little Twonkie creatures from a passing comet. All his friends want one, and soon the rapidly breeding critters are everywhere. Taking a page from Gremlins, the writers have Twonkies turn into menacing monsters when exposed to music, and when this inevitably happens, they begin to terrorize the town. In a surprising show of violence, a kid and a squirrel are apparently ripped to shreds by Twonkies off screen.

Possibly taking its inspiration from the Michael Keaton film Multiplicity, “Send in the Clones” has Jimmy create clones to help do his chores. They turn out to have varying personalities: a Saturday Night Fever John Travolta type, a Joker Jack Nicholson type, an Antonio Banderas-like Latin lover, a Carrot Top-type odious comedian, an angst-ridden emo type, and one possibly inspired by Richard Simmons. Needless to say, rather than sticking to chores, they begin to wreak havoc across town, with Jimmy taking the blame.

In “A Beautiful Mine,” the whole gang travels to a distant asteroid to mine valuable astro-rubies, only to run afoul of some alien bandits. Jealousy over the rubies threatens to tear the gang apart until they are united by a common menace. This episode continues the movie references with Jimmy’s rocket-powered Winnebago, inevitably dredging up memories of Spaceballs.

In “The Junkman Cometh,” Jimmy, Sheen, and Carl travel to space to answer a distress call from his robot family, which he apparently created in an earlier episode for companionship. Humorously, he despises them and is annoyed to find out they only wanted him to come visit. However, when the evil metal collecting Junkman kidnaps the robots, Jimmy must save them from real peril.

Oddly enough, while they spout out a goodly amount of funny lines, most of the Jimmy Neutron cast isn’t very interesting. Jimmy himself is the typical wiz kid, and his friends Sheen and Carl are an annoying idiot and a pathetic dork respectively. Actually, Carl has many solid moments of self-deprecating humor, but his neutered grandmotherly delivery takes the edge off. The only character who really stands out is Jimmy’s dad, a self-absorbed nutcase who is strongly reminiscent of the father on Malcolm in the Middle. He steals the show in Twonkies with his bizarre puppet obsession, leading one to wonder how long it might be before Jimmy’s nuclear family undergoes serious fission.

The CGI animation is relatively simple but more than adequate for a TV show. The art design is generally cute but unremarkable with the exception of the colorful villains, which include an alien who looks like Mr. T.

Jimmy Neutron is at its best when it’s dishing out jokes, and they come in quick succession. When Jimmy’s robot dog Goddard tries to warn him of danger on the comet, Jimmy’s immediate response is, “Just go in that crater boy, no one’s looking.” When Jimmy’s father admonishes his puppet for poor manners, the puppet responds, “I’m fresh?? You’re the one with your hand on my…” In one episode Jimmy, Carl, and Sheen travel into space via an open-cockpit rocket. When Sheen wonders how they can survive without spacesuits Jimmy responds as if nothing could be more elementary, but his explanation is conveniently drowned out not once, but twice by Carl suddenly breaking into song in the background. Faced with an approaching alien menace, Sheen asserts, “We have three choices – cry, run, or have an embarrassing accident,” to which Carl responds, “I may do all three.” On a planet deep in space, the gang all volunteer what they miss most about home. Carl excitedly offers, “Jimmy’s mom’s…(pauses nervously)…. cookies.”

There are no special features whatsoever, heralding a new low in fan appreciation. What’s the deal? No love for Neutron fans? Spongebob discs have extras, slight though they are. I think you can go to jail for this in some countries, or at least you should.

For fans of Jimmy Neutron, especially in the continued absence of season sets, Attack of the Twonkies makes a worthy addition to the collection. Its modest presentation may not make too many new converts, but it packs plenty of goofy fun all the same. For viewers looking for more mature material, perhaps it suggests a spin-off in the form of “The Ribald Adventures of a Dad and his Dummy.” You’ve got my number Nickelodeon.

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