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Hey Arnold!

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Hey Arnold!
from Film Forum, 07/03/02

Hey Arnold!Go back to television! That's the message being sent by critics who viewed the new family movie based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series. Arnold is a boy who loves his neighborhood, and who may be the only one clever enough to devise a plan that will foil the intentions of evil developers with their bulldozers. Even critics who admire the television show are dismayed at what they see here.

James Akin (Decent Films) says the television cartoon is "entertaining in a low-key, kid-friendly mode, yet also far more psychologically complex than most cartoons. I went to the screening with anticipation." He was disappointed. "Given the number of missteps the filmmakers made, it looks as if the filmmakers simply had no idea whatsoever how to adapt the Hey, Arnold! series for the big screen. There are missteps at every turn."

Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) acknowledges "some smart writing and that magical something that appeals to little ones, but the producers haven't captured this kid at heart." He is troubled by what he calls "an edgy quality" in the humor, and finds "the story, drawings and character voices blah and uninspiring."

The USCCB's critic says, "The humdrum comedy lacks the inventiveness to make it anything more than a 74-minute version of a TV episode. Younger viewers are likely to be more amused by the film than their adult chaperones, chiefly because it shows kids single-handedly taking on the bad guy, while the adults mainly do nothing."

"Are your kids already hooked on the TV show?" asks Steven Isaac (Focus on the Family.) "Hey Arnold! The Movie doesn't go anywhere the series hasn't already gone. Never heard of Arnold? I don't see any compelling reason to change that." Isaac highlights honorable themes—"teamwork, friendship, perseverance and courage." But he also cautions parents that the movie also portrays "violent confrontations, explosions, a flippant view of idol worship, deception and taking far too many risks—especially for a 10-year-old."

But Tom Snyder (Movieguide) raves, "Hey Arnold! is a very humorous, entertaining movie with a lot of heart. It's the setting and the characters that give the movie its charm." He praises the film because, in one humorous moment, a child prays a quick prayer. And he adds that he is pleased to hear one character use the phrase "Godspeed."