LOS ANGELES, July 1 (UPI) -- The colorful and lively (if not particularly memorable) computer-animated cartoon movie "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" is coming out on DVD and VHS Tuesday.
The disk version sells for $29.99 and includes seven DVD-ROM games. On tape, it's priced to sell at $22.99 list.
It was a surprise hit among boys 10 and under last year. Parents will find it loud but otherwise painless.
"Jimmy Neutron" was one of the three films nominated for the new Best Animated Feature Academy Award. In the final Oscar balloting, everybody thought that it didn't stand a chance against 2001's two cartoon superpowers, "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc." Well, everybody was right: "Shrek" won.
Still, "Jimmy Neutron" grossed a solid $81 million domestically despite only a $25 million budget, which is probably what impressed the academy most. DNA Productions made "Jimmy" in two years, compared to the five years and $115 million it took Pixar to create "Monsters."
DNA's secret was that they used off-the-shelf commercial 3-D software. So, they just paid for artists, not an entire crew of programmers. The result isn't as visually spectacular as Pixar's wonderful pushing-the-technological-envelope cartoons, but it's not at all bad. DNA's budget breakthrough opens the way for a host of modest-scale 3-D movies and even 3-D television shows.
Despite all the computer horsepower that went into making the movie, the boy genius talents are more old-fashioned. Unlike the computer guru characters who have overrun movies lately, Jimmy is a mechanical whiz kid in the grand old Tom Swift tradition, always figuring out how to strap rocket boosters to everything laying around the house, with amusingly cataclysmic results. Jimmy's retro theme and look reminds us that the classic science fiction of the mid-20th century was all about going places, at ever-faster speeds, not about sitting in front of a screen, fiddling with data.
I found Jimmy's mechanical bent appealing. Let's face it. Our Computer Revolution is a dull dog compared to the high romance of the late, great Transportation Revolution. From the invention of the steamship in 1807 to the moon landing in 1969, the human race's freedom to move around -- fast -- increased at an incomprehensible rate. Then, something went wrong. What's been the biggest transportation breakthrough since man walked on the moon? The minivan?
The movie uses mostly unknowns as voice talent, along with a few medium-sized names like Patrick Stewart and Martin Short, all of whom do fine. I've never seen much point in spending big money on expensive superstars to record cartoon voices, as Disney did with Mel Gibson in "Pocahontas" or Demi Moore in "Hunchback of Notre Dame." (Eddie Murphy, a character leading man, is the exception to this rule.)
Superstars are fine vocal actors, but they make gazillions not because they have terrific voices, but because they offer the complete vocal and visual package, which is exactly what you don't need to pay for in animated talent. The "Shrek" sequel, for example, is stuck paying $10 million each to get Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers back for a few weeks of voice dubbing, even though hundreds of obscure actors could have carried their original roles and would have been ecstatic to return for one-tenth that amount.
The cleverest solution, to my mind, is to hire voice talent that's too old and decrepit-looking to appear on screen anymore, but still has brilliant comic timing, like Buddy Hackett in "Little Mermaid," George Sanders in "Jungle Book," or John Cleese in 2004's "Shrek 2."
In summary, "Jimmy Neutron" is highly competent fun.
Rated G, although toddlers might be scared by the parent-eating Giant Chicken from Outer Space.