Sort of an animated "Home Alone" with a sci-fi twist and a lot more energy and fun, "Jimmy Neutron" zipped away with solid box office grosses around Christmas time last year. The Nickelodeon/Paramount co-production is slight in terms of story, clocking in at 82 minutes, but what it lacks in story, it makes up in terrific voice acting, superb animation and smart writing. The feature focuses on Jimmy Neutron, a young boy who just happens to be a genius. Although laughed at by friends and called "Nerdtron", Jimmy's ambitions to be a great inventor are clearly evident, but he just can't get one quite right. In a hilarious sequence, his shrink ray accidentally goes off after he's left the classroom, leaving his now-tiny teacher to fend for herself against a worm in the apple on her desk.
Although Jimmy is dissapointed when Judy and Hugh Neutron (Megan Cavanagh and Mark DeCarlo) won't let him visit the local amusement park on a school night, he sneaks out anyways. Joining up with his pals, the kids have a ton of fun, arriving home to find out that...their parents are missing. The kids take this time to have a blast, ruling the town - eating and partying till they're ready to burst. But, when scraped knees and other kidlet problems resume, the kids realize that they must find their folks.
Jimmy eventually realizes that the parents of the town have been abducted by an alien race called the Yokians, lead by King Goobot (an unexpectedly silly Patrick Stewart, who surprises with his comedic skills in the same way John Lithgow did in "3rd Rock from the Sun"). Lead by Jimmy, the kids turn amusement park rides into space-ready ships and head off in search of their folks. The sequence where the kids take everything from a merry-go-round to a roller coaster into space is a delightful one and certainly worth the price of admission by itself.
The creators have also brought together terrific voice actors, such as the previously mentioned Stewart. Also along for the ride are: longtime animation voice-actor Debi Derryberry, Martin Short, John Garcia and others. Although "Neutron" was done cheaper than most CGI animated features, the animation still looks awfully good and some of the landscapes/environments are quite beautifully rendered - as previously mentioned, the sequence where the kids blast off on their rides is fantastic and clever, much like the rest of the picture. I didn't know what to expect from "Jimmy Neutron", but I thought it was a blast - a very entertaining movie that both adults and kids can enjoy.
VIDEO:Unusual for Paramount, they present "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. Both share the same side of a dual-layer disc. The picture quality of the anamorphic idescreen transfer is stunning. Although this computer-animated feature wasn't as expensive as some of its earlier counterparts, I was still impressed by the animation, which boasts excellent detail and great use of shadows.
I only noticed one tiny fault: an instance or two of barely noticable artifacts were spotted, but these were hardly a concern. Otherwise, no edge enhancement was seen, nor were there any instances of print flaws. Colors were remarkable, practically popping off the screen and remaining vibrant and well-saturated. Black level was solid, as well. Viewers are going to be truly impressed with Paramount's work here.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack went beyond my expectations in creating an enjoyably immersive audio universe. Kids pictures are usually rather restrained in terms of their sound design, but "Jimmy Neutron" realizes that the material deserves quite a few zips and zooms around the listening space. Surround use is pretty stellar at times, as the rear speakers get put to terrific use to deliver sound effects related to Jimmy's inventions or during the action scenes. Dialogue, music and sound effects are all crystal clear - a marvelous sound mix that really adds to the enjoyment of the feature.
MENUS: The animated main menu is set up to look like Jimmy's computer, while the non-animated sub-menus look similarly techy and fun.
EXTRAS: A 15-minute "making of" featurette is better than these pieces usually are, offering a mixture of fun interviews and interesting info about the behind-the-scenes efforts; the film's trailer and teaser (Dolby Digital 5.1); music videos from Aaron Carter and No Secrets; 12 ads (5 cliffhangers and 7 interstitials) and 7 interactive DVD-ROM games (requires a computer capable of playing DVD movies and running Windows 98 SE or higher).
Final Thoughts: "Jimmy Neutron" is a highly enjoyable and entertaining film that may be geared towards kids, but both adults and kids should find this a fun adventure. Paramount's DVD may not provide loads of supplements, but really is terrific where it counts, delivering excellent audio/video quality. A definite recommendation.
The Film *** 1/2