Series: 3.5 / 5
The Jungle Movie: 2 / 5
So let me get this out of the way, I’ve already reviewed the first Arnold movie. So I won’t be covering that too heavily here.
The series itself, it’s still good to this day. Episodic, without much need to watch the show in any particular order (with a couple exceptions). Granted, the introduction to certain characters will come more naturally if it’s done in order. On the other hand, some of the stuff that happens in some episodes that should carry over into others in terms of character arcs and events, kinda makes some things weird when they seem to forget all about it. It isn’t as bad as something like that Jumanji series where they just do the same shit over and over again, and in the grand scheme of things it’s relatively minor. Although it would be obvious at various points that Helga has a crush on Arnold, and there are at least three episodes, plus the first movie, where it’s indicated that Arnold at least has an idea (at the bare minimum) of Helga’s true feelings for him. Which makes it a tad bit irritating where he doesn’t seem to acknowledge this for the first 3/4ths of the Jungle Movie. The movie that makes continual callbacks and references to stuff in previous episodes throughout the series.
And you know what, fuck it, I want to talk about the Jungle Movie before the series while it’s still fresh in my head, and while I’m still blasted (it’s been one of those weekends, getting drunk and watching shit). The animation style is clearly different from that of the old-school hand-drawn style. Honestly, this was to be expected. I’m willing to show some leniency on this, considering they can’t be expected to do hand-drawn stuff anymore (which pisses me right the fuck off that this style is so scarce it seems outlawed). But the problems I had with the film became apparent early on. So many of those, “Hey Arnold!” moments. I don’t mean the show itself, I mean people actually fucking say that shit. Even though this seems to take place literally the day after the series finale 2-parter episode The Journal (“And what is up with that pig?”), everyone seems to be saying hi to Arnold as if it’s the first episode. This does not mesh well when coming off immediately from the last season. Granted, it was over a decade before this Jungle Movie came out, but you would think the creators would assume the hardcore fans this film was (allegedly) made for would be fresh from a marathon run or something. So yeah, all those old assholes at the apartment with the grandparents, Oskar money-grubbin’ Kakoshka, Ernie short-tempered Potts, and Mr. “what the hell happened to my daughter after that Christmas episode?” Hyunh, they all greet Arnold as if they’re introducing themselves to the viewers. It’s one of the many things that left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially when the first movie had Helga spill her guts to Arnold about her love for him, which she tried to cover up by the end of it, bo nobody was buying that bullshit (not even Arnold). Granted, it’s a small minor thing, but this movie had a bunch of minor irritations that piled up.
The biggest irritation of all in this entire movie was the fucking pig Abner. To explain my irritation, you have to understand the first Arnold movie. That whole movie is at odds with the entire series and the Jungle Movie. First there’s the relatively grounded series, where everyone is middle to lower class (with the exception of a couple kids and their families), without anything really over-the-top happening. Then the movie comes along, and all of a sudden everyone is an expert at demolitions, spy gear, infiltration, 007 shit. Even to the point where it seemed to break character, particularly with the rich girl having access to all the spy equipment, having a group of girls at her command running some secret operation, having the funds for it and knowing how all this equipment worked, and equipping the protagonists with it (Arnold and Gerald). Everything about that movie was over the top in comparison to anything that happens in the show. And yet I was more willing to go along with everything that happened in that movie more easily than I was with the buttfucking pig somehow making its way back to the airport, hitching a ride on the cocksucking plane, being served cuntlicking shrimp while on the plane, and then making it back to Arnold’s tittyfucking grandparents to inform them of his predicament so they could get to the airport and hitch a ride over to the island in a rescue operation which, in the grand scheme of things from a narrative standpoint, culminated into something being absolutely pointless. It’s bad enough that they stretch my suspension of disbelief, which is very easy to break in my drunken state (and it did). But the fact that this ended up not serving much purpose as all the kids that got rescued by the parents and grandparents made no other appearance at all in the entire movie (seriously, I don’t think they even showed up when everyone made it back to civilization; seriously, it would’ve been more hilarious to leave that rescue sequence out and just picture those classmates still stuck on the island after the credits have rolled).
While the fucking pig travel was the worst part, another aspect that bugged the hell out of me was how all the school kids, including Arnold’s best friend Gerald, turning on him after the villain says Arnold was helping him all this time and kept it secret from them all. And they wouldn’t even give Arnold the chance to explain himself, even when he was saying that’s not what happened. Not even after all they’ve been through together in the series. Not even after admitting that he’s the most morally upstanding character of the show. Not even after stating as much by helping him to win this contest during the entire first act of the film. Not even when they are also responsible for putting themselves in this predicament. Yet they just put all the blame on Arnold right then and there, and no one ever backtracks on that to think, “Well, that’s also on us too.” Bullshit.
Another part worth mentioning. The main villain gets a dart shot into his head, then he falls off a cliff. Five minutes later, he is somehow able to defy the laws of physical (and probably biology and chemistry), and climb back up to the top of the cliff, pulling himself up by a rope that wasn’t initially pulled all the way down, come back up in a sickly greenish state, and capable of fighting people. It’s just… uh… WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?
And the whole purpose of him showing back up was to cause this golden heart to go over the edge with him to his death (at least I’m assuming he got killed, I guess the second time going over the cliff is the charm). So that Helga could use her Arnold love heart medallion as a proxy for it to save everyone, because it just so happens to fit well-enough into this slot to operate some Aztec-Indiana Jones-like mechanism to save everyone. Bullshit! Bull-fucking-shit! I would’ve sooner bought them just using some random rock somewhere on the ground hoping that it was shaped like the golden heart than buying that fucking Helga medallion working that mechanism.
And that’s just all that shit. I found it fucking stupid that they would have all these mechanisms and Arnold paintings/statues around as if he’s the messiah and the one destined to save all the sleeping adults at the village. Fuck you! I’d rather go with the agent 007 shit from the first movie than with this stuff. At least it’s more fun and entertaining.
And yeah, that’s the other thing. The Jungle Movie just isn’t as fun as the series (in general) is, let alone the first movie itself. Too much runtime felt like it was going for nostalgia call-backs almost as hard as J.J. Abrahms pretending to care about whenever he makes a Star Wars or Star Trek film. And most of the time it was more borderline cringe-inducing than cheer-worthy. The rest of the time, the humor moments and dialogue were more on the awkward side than the funny side. Which should act as no surprise considering how one’s sense of humor can change considerably over the course of 10+ years.
But what did the Jungle movie get right? What did it succeed in doing for me? Well, it did act as a reasonable conclusion for the show, tying up all loose ends that the 2-parter episode The Journal setup (plus what a couple other episodes alluded to regard Arnold’s parents), even if the execution of it could’ve been handled far better (for instance, I really don’t think there needed to be a villain for this; or if there did, the one we got was nowhere near the best). And it did have the love Helga has for Arnold be acknowledged by everyone, including Arnold himself; only for her to act otherwise out of habit at the end (to an extent), which seemed stupid to me all things considered.
I mean, God! It did the things everyone hoped it would do. Explain the issues in the jungle, reunite Arnold with his parents, and have Helga’s love for him acknowledged explicitly. But I felt it could’ve been done so much better! It’s so frustrated having something that gives you the end you would expect, but not up to par with the quality you would hope for. It doesn’t help that I was getting Game of Thrones flashbacks with how quickly porky pig managed to travel from one continent to another (let alone the parent after getting wind of the children’s plight). In fact, the fucking porky plane travel thing was completely unnecessary when you consider how they were able to contact Helga’s parents.
But anyway, that’s what I primarily have to say about the movie. It delivered what fans wanted, but in a less than satisfactory way. From the animation quality (which isn’t something to primarily fault the film for), to the dialogue, the timing, the types of jokes, the ludicrous far-fetched shit. It could’ve been better.
As for the series itself. First of all, if you bought the ultimate collection like I did (see image above), do yourself a favor for the fifth and final season. When you come across the episodes The Journal part 1 and 2, save those for last. I don’t know why the fuck the DVD wouldn’t have that placed as the last episode of the series, but it didn’t. Also, in my personal opinion, the 30 minute episode The Marriage would’ve been better as a penultimate episode (ie the episode to watch before The Journal).
Episode order aside, I found this series to be rather good for a kids’ show. Granted, not every episode was perfect, and I found some seasons better than others (5 > 1 > 4 > 3 > 2; there is a chance season 3 is better than season 4). But it’s all-in-all a fairly enjoyable show. Stand-out episodes include:
It’s cliche with how it all pans out, including the whole reunion with Hyunh and his daughter. But that moment where Helga whispers, “Merry Christmas Arnold,” that got to me. Less concerned with Hyunh’s plight than Helga showing her soft side.
Arnold having a say with a baseball player near the end of his career.
Helga grows jealous of this chick Arnold is going on a date with at a carnival, and proceeds to try and sabotage their fun. In the end, while she does succeed to an extent, everyone else walks out of the carnival happily with some fun gained from the experience, while Helga is left alone and miserable. A moment where harsh lessons are taught on the show, and it won’t be the last.
The Vacant Lot
An episode I remember very well from when I first saw it when I was young. Arnold and friends clean up a vacant lot so they can play baseball on it, only to find all the adults end up taking the lot for their own to conduct business, leaving the kids out in spite of them being the ones cleaning up the lot and making it a good place to do business and play games in the first place.
Arnold learns self-defense and gets carried away with it. Probably the only instance in any season that isn’t season 5 where Arnold is shown to have fault in his character. Plus it has a good lesson about using your skills for good and to be self-controlled about it and not show off.
The pros of learning wilderness survival skills, and the cons of over-reliance on modern technology.
An interesting morally conflicting episode where for most of it you absolutely despise Helga, only to wonder if you should keep on despising her afterwards. And to consider who Arnold should be with, to consider if there is someone better than Helga. Because Arnold ends up with his own relationship predicament regarding a crush.
The Big Scoop
Relevant message about the press and the first amendment. Seriously, this is more intelligent than that Steven Spielberg film The Post.
Arnold and Helga learn to appreciate the family the have for Thanksgiving.
Helga and the Nanny
Similar to Operation Ruthless in that it shows the consequences of trying to destroy someone, except that this episode packs a bigger punch.
Helga does stand up making fun of everyone (with accuracy to the stereotypes and/or faults in their character). This doesn’t go over well, as people begin to hate her for this. When Helga’s best friend convinces her to change up her stand up routine to be more PC and complimentary to everyone, the crowd boos her because she’s boring and not entertaining. Arnold convinces her to switch back to what she is good at, insulting everyone. And everyone begins to laugh at the jokes again, at first when they’re not aimed at themselves, but then learn to have fun with it all, with their own faults and the faults of others. Probably the best statement as to what stand up comedy should be outside of that episode of Duckman “Joking the Chicken.”
For the play Romeo and Juliet, Arnold plays Romeo, Helga plays Juliet. The ending is one of those moments that make me roll my eyes at the Jungle Movie when Arnold doesn’t seem to acknowledge that Helga has feelings for him, and was fully unprepared for it at that moment.
Helga’s older and “better in every way” sister Olga shows up, and becomes a substitute teacher in the class. Helga can’t stand her sister anymore, and feels she’s going to lose it if she doesn’t do something. So then Helga confronts Olga in a very harsh manner. Honestly, the whole last act became very relatable. How you have that one family member you love, yet can’t stand to be around.
When it’s brought to the forefront how much of an advice-giver Arnold is, to the point where Arnold becomes frustrated at everyone over-relying on him.
Helga on the Couch
The episode where a psychiatrist intends to find out Helga’s biggest secret. Shows backstory on Helga, demonstrating why she is the way she is.
New Bully on the Block
Main reason I like this episode, aside from seeing a big bully actually punch a girl in the face and give her a black eye (it isn’t shown explicitly), it shows one of the very few times where Arnold’s advice on how to get out of a bad situation completely backfires and he is shown to be completely wrong. Nice to see him shown to have faults every now and then.
The episode where we are introduced to Arnold’s parents. And, honestly, this should’ve been in season 3 as was originally planned, considering (what should be) the season finale episode for this season.
A story that is a metaphor for drug addiction.
Pretty damn hilarious episode, that actually has a sweet note with Arnold subconsciously seeing through Helga’s act of being a hardass. The main knock against this episode is the last moment that sort of tries to nullify the whole thing.
I don’t know why the episode numbers for this two-parter isn’t listed as the last two episodes, because this should by all accounts be where the series ended, as it leads directly into The Jungle Movie which wraps everything up regarding Arnold’s parents (and being in the 5th grade). But anyway, this gives all the backstory you would expect on Arnold’s parents that the prior season 5 episode “Parent’s Day” didn’t completely deliver on.
So yeah, season 2 didn’t have anywhere near as many episodes on average that I enjoyed compared to the others (the scenarios get ridiculous in that season). And to be honest, I thought season 2 was the weakest of the show; though there were plenty of mediocre episodes in seasons 3 and 4. But overall, despite the eye-rolling episodes, there were enough solid ones to make this show stand the test of time over the years as I’ve aged and matured. Even if the film wasn’t as well-executed of a conclusion as I would’ve liked, at least the series is wrapped up without any unintended loose threads still hanging. It’s worth a watch, especially with the family and kids. Plus this is also proof that it’s more enjoyable to watch a show with a fanatical female stalker than it is a show with a fanatical male stalker. One is sweet and adorable, the other is terrifying and illegal.
The element that makes this show stand out is that it’s relatively grounded with relatable characters, even if the aspect that can make them relatable to some can get stretched a bit to the extreme (but usually not too extreme). There’s going to be some character or some moment where it’s like, “Yeah, I know someone like that,” or, “Yeah, I’ve seen something like that happen.” Because it focuses on a more lower-middle class environment, with one or two students who are in the upper class or lower class spectrum. Plenty of good morals to be found in the series.
PS: I was tempted to post some, ahem, rather inappropriate pics in this blog entry, but resisted the urge. But I won’t resist posting links to the stuff I was tempted to include:
https://www.deviantart.com/mylastfantasy/art/Hey-Arnold-Mistletoe-Page-1-582898216 (honestly, this is more adorable than it is naughty)
https://theanomaloushost.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/5f8eb-versionesadultasdepersonajesdecaricaturasydibujosanimados07.jpg (sort of pushing it, but relatively tame; this is the last one that is more on the adorable side)
http://thatpervert.com/post/3667387 (sequel to the video above)
http://thatpervert.com/post/3667389 (you have been warned)