Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002) review

Rated: 4 / 5

This review is ported over from Letterboxd.  Just you you understand the context of some criticism I make later on in the review.

“Maybe we could paint the house with vanishing cream. Then it would be invisible.”

“That is the stupidest idea I ever heard. What if it rains? Ding-dong! You ever think about that, Kokoshka? It’ll wash the vanishing cream off, and then everyone’ll see us.”

Wow was this a lot of fun! Every single character was great (especially Ernie, the guy with the red hair who had dynamite hidden under his bed). It masters the craft of blending serious moments, down to Earth moments, with over-the-top cartoony and hilarious moments. I was surprised this movie managed to make me laugh as much as it did.

As for the story, it’s that typical by-the-numbers stuff that’s been going on since forever that most writers default to when they can’t come up with anything all that unique. Rich corporate asshole wants to take over the town and replace it with a mall. To be fair though, it does make the best of this with its execution. The tender moments early on with characters remembering things about the town fondly; Arnold’s sadness at his continual failing to save the neighborhood; making jokes about moving to Canada. Like I said, it masterfully transitions between serious moments with humor, blending them effortlessly. Plus the dialogue is fantastic.

The only fault (and it’s a minor one) is 2 moments at the ending. The final shot is meh. And I really wish Helga’s confession of her love for Arnold had more lasting impact as opposed to leaving the impression things end up same-old same-old.



And now to get more serious. And I know some of you are thinking, “Oh Jesus, he’s not going to ruin this review with politics is he?”

Yes he is! He is going to ruin this review with politics! If half you motherfuckers are going to insert pro-liberalism and anti-Trump-supporterism stuff into half the reviews on this site, then I’m going to be the fatherfucker who’s not going to feel any guilt for injecting alternatives to those views. Especially when a clear opportunity presents itself.

So the rich corporate guy wants to demolish the neighborhood, knowing full well it’s a historical/cultural landmark, for the sake of profit. It’s the schtik that made it ok to hate Republicans and corporations back in the good old days of anything pre-2010. Because that message had some relevance and realism, as also exploited in the film Batteries Not Included (a flawed and too overly sentimental film). We don’t like having our past destroyed for someone else’s profit.

On the other hand, at least something could come from that. More jobs and more income for those who need/want jobs. So there’s a potential upside to it that may or may not offset the downside of replacing of a place many held nostalgia for. It’s something one can only take into account in hindsight, assuming there is a history worth remembering.

But as we eventually find out, Mr. Donut Hole has an ulterior motive for destroying the town and replacing it with a mall. It’s not to drive out competition. It’s to erase history. He has a personal vendetta against the history of the town that proves to be an embarrasment to his ancestors centuries ago. Now what does that remind you of? What came to mind are the more recent events of those assholes tearing down Confederate statues. It reminds me of those who seek to erase or rewrite history. Where the fuck is the tangible upside to that?

So now things can’t be as simple as hating on Republicans for their excessive love of corporatism anymore. Not like the good old days. Not like when even we were aware of the bad things in our past, we still acted with respect and integrity, knowing it should all be preserved. The good and the bad. Warts and all.

No, now many are trying to make the norm to be erasing history by judging and condemning it based on subjectivity and emotions, and because alternative versions of corporations tell us to. What better way to replace the neighborhood-equivalent of a museum than to raise half the people in it to learn to hate it for bullshit reasons, teaching them to outright ignore any reason why they shouldn’t think differently, and thus cause everyone to be too busy fighting each other so that they won’t have time, numbers, or will to stand up against the real bad guys? Many today would celebrate seeing the historical document burn rather than be outraged by it, and be ok with the only evidence remaining of its existence being on a videotape, or in digital format. And for the pettiest reasons. Let’s see how they feel a few centuries from now when monuments they erect to celebrate something they once revered such as the first gender fluid statue, or something representing an individual who fought for a State that fought for abortion get torn down because they’ve been taught to revile that shit. You know, as opposed to teaching that everyone should hold some amount of respect for things representing significant events in history, whether good or bad. Doesn’t mean they have to celebrate it, but to remember it and allow one to reflect on the then and now, and how far we’ve come. Or at the very least allow ancestors to remember their past fondly. History is worth remembering. History is worth preserving.


Cue Misirlou.

It provides something for people to look back on and think, “Ah, the good old days.” Their nostalgia may blind them to some of the bad things that were in that time period. But the point is there are some memorable, if not good, things worth remembering. You know, like the uncut unedited versions of Ren & Stimpy, and Rocko’s Modern Life, that these fucks refuse to release on DVD. Or even a complete collection of the golden era of the Looney Tunes.


At the very least, currently, Hey Arnold! doesn’t suffer from this problem.

Take that ya little millennial culture-destroying bastards!

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