We like Debi Derryberry, voice of Jimmy Neutron. She’s got a funny name and her last screen credit was Rude Coffee Customer in Ghost World. She’s also a girl doing a boy’s voice, which is always cool, even if Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is the biggest dorkfest since Max Keeble’s Big Move. Neutron, like his Nickelodeon grandfather Inspector Gadget, is the poster boy for walking contradictions: He’s lazy (his gizmo wake-up routine is Pee-wee reductive), and while he may own a jetpack, he still chases after the school bus. At least Gadget had an excuse: He was stupid. The Neutron parent brigade is quintessentially old-fashioned, so much so they’re rendered easily expendable. Once intergalactic aliens haul the film’s Mike Brady and Donna Reed clones off to a distant planet (home of a monster reptile/chicken hybrid), it’s up to Neutron and company to save TV Land from tummy aches and boo-boos. Cue moral lesson: Parents may not let you have fun, but if they’re gone who’s going to scramble your eggs? Jimmy Neutron’s wide-eyed computer animation is considerably ho-hum by Pixar standards, especially when set to a lifeless teeny bopper soundtrack. The voice work is top-notch (Andrea Martin’s Mrs. Fowl is joyously witchy and Rob Paulsen’s Carl is the funniest nerd this side of Ralph Wiggum) and sometimes awww-inducing (see the kid who eats too much cotton candy). The story itself is relatively conflicted, walking an awkward line between absurd (a boy looks for his parents inside a garbage can, Martin Short’s Ooblar talks to toast) and downright lame (Jimmy thinks sneaking out is “barbaric”). The been-there-done-that feel of Neutron, though, seems tailormade for the current Nickelodeon crowd. Parents will yawn and crack a smile here and there while the six-and-under crowd might actually stay in their seats.
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