The Disney+ “Phineas and Ferb” movie reeks of content for content’s sake, but it’s still smart, funny, and full of life.
Movies have been around since the late 19th century, but only now — after more than 100 years of failure — has someone finally made one that hinges on the invention of a ray gun that replaces anyone it shoots with the nearest available chicken. The device is called “The Chicken Replace-inator,” and it’s the latest weapon created by the mad scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz (of Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated fame) in his never-ending quest to kill the fedora-wearing secret agent who always foils his plans and also happens to be a platypus — Perry the platypus.
The cackling lovechild of Abe Vigoda and the Wicked Witch of the West, Doofenshmirtz has come up with all sorts of cockamamie schemes to destroy Perry over the years — one for each of the 222 episodes of “Phineas and Ferb” that aired on the Disney Channel between 2007 and 2015 — but the Chicken Replace-inator has to be among the dumbest and most inspired. Decades after Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Dan Povenmire first hit upon the basic idea behind their wonderful animated series for kids of all ages, they’re still finding new ways to have fun with it.
The show was supposedly exhumed from the grave because Disney wanted cross-demographic fodder for its new streaming platform, and even longtime fans may not be able to shake the sense that “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe” reeks of content for content’s sake. But the property itself is such a well-engineered machine — and Marsh and Povenmire have so expertly mastered how to use it — that it’s no surprise the whole contraption still runs smooth (even when they leave it on for a full 90 minutes). It’s more of the same, but more of the same has always been what “Phineas and Ferb” does best.
Anyone who commits to watching this movie is almost certainly familiar with the show’s iterative genius, and how every episode followed the same basic pattern in a way that made them all feel special instead of derivative — like the musical children’s TV show equivalent of watching a Harlem Globetrotters’ game. The gist is that Perry (the Platypus) is the Ethan Hunt of OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym), and he’s spending the domestic “Mission: Impossible — III” phase of his career disguised as a simple house pet who belongs to a pair of brilliant pre-teen boys too busy surfing tidal waves, creating nanobots, or locating Frankenstein’s brain to notice that their chattering little friend has slipped away on another urgent mission.
Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (David Errigo Jr.) are the two smartest and most productive step-brothers in all of Danville, America, and they spend day of their endless summer vacation leading the neighborhood kids in all sorts of fantastical STEM-adjacent hijinx… much to the chagrin of the boys’ teen sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale), who’s hellbent on “busting” her brothers for moody teen reasons. Alas, every time she’s about to show their mom that Phineas and Ferb have built a 400-foot-tall roller-coaster in their backyard or whatever, the Perry and Doofenshmirtz B-story inadvertently destroys the evidence.
Despite the table-setting plot song that opens the movie, “Candace Against the Universe” is geared towards people who know the true depth of its namesake’s frustration. It was made with the knowledge that every Disney+ subscriber will have the source material at their disposal, and so it’s…
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