Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe (2020) Review
FERB, I KNOW WHAT
WE’RE GONNA DO TODAY!
Back in 2008, Disney Channel released Phineas and Ferb, an animated comedy series that was produced by Disney Television Animation. Created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh for the Disney Channel and Disney XD, the show follows Phineas Flynn and his stepbrother Ferb Fletcher on summer vacation. Every day, the boys embark on some grand new project; these are usually unrealistic given the protagonists’ ages (and are sometimes downright physically impossible), which annoys their controlling sister, Candace, who frequently tries to reveal their shenanigans to her and Phineas’ mother, Linda Flynn-Fletcher, and less frequently to Ferb’s father, Lawrence Fletcher. The series follows a standard plot system: running gags occur every episode, and the b-plot almost always features Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus Perry the Platypus working as a spy (named “Agent P”) for OWCA (the Organization Without a Cool Acronym), to defeat the latest scheme of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, a mad scientist driven largely by a need to assert his evilness (although he is not especially evil and has a good heart in some situations). The two plots intersect at the end to erase all traces of the boys’ project just before Candace can show it to their mother that usually leaves Candance very frustrated. Premiering a special sneak preview on August 17th and on September 28th, 2007 before officially launching on February 1st, 2008, Phineas and Ferb received praise from critics and viewers as the show ran for four seasons (222 episodes), a few special crossover events (i.e. Star Wars and Marvel), a spin-off project TV series (Milo Murphy’s Law), and an animated feature film (Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension) in 2011 with the series finishing in June 12th, 2015. Now, five years later, the Disney Channel cartoon series returns for a special engagement as Disney and director Bob Bowen present the second animated feature film Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe. Is there still magic left in exploring the wacky comedy adventure or is it time for the “House of Mouse” to retire the cartoon property?
Throughout the entire summer, Candance (Ashley Tisdale) is frustrated by the trouble-free fun her brothers, Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (David Errigo Jr.) have always been cooking up; creating large-than-life shenanigans and inventions and never getting busted by their parents. One day, she and friend Vanessa (Olivia Olson) are accidentally rocketed to an alien planet called Feebla-Oot and Candance is dubbed “The Chosen One” by proclaimed ruler of Feebla-Oot, Super Super Big Doctor (Ali Wong); feeling she’s finally found a place where she’s justly valued for herself want and not by her brothers. Determined to rescue their sister, Phineas and Ferb, along with their friends, are fast on her trail and intent on saving her, while Vanessa’s dad, the ever-meddling Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (Dan Povenmire), joins the group on the adventure towards Feebla-Oot. Unbeknownst to the gang, secret animal agent / Phineas and Ferb’s pet Perry the Platypus secretly joins them on their journey. While everyone converges on Feebla-Oot, the truth behind what makes Candance “The Chosen One” comes out, with the gang ready to save the day.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I have to admit that I am a big fan of Phineas and Ferb. Not so much of owning the merchandise or anything like that, but I did love watching the show on Disney Channel / Disney XD when it did its initial run. I think I first saw the show when Disney previewed one of the first episodes after premiering High School Musical 2 on Disney Channel back in 2007 and I have to say that I was immediately hooked. From there, I followed the show all the way to its last episode and thoroughly enjoyed. Loved all the running gags and physical comedy aspects as well as some of the characters (gotta love Perry the Platypus and Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz) and the various things that Phineas and Ferb (and their friends) wind up creating on each episode. Additionally, some of the songs from the TV show are pretty darn catchy as I always end up hymning / singing them every now and again (like “Gitchee Gitchee Goo”). I do have to say that I haven’t had the chance to see Milo Murphy’s Law, the spin-off animated series that takes place in the same universe as Phineas and Ferb. Although, since it was created by Povenmire and Marsh, I might decide to “binge” watch the show sometime in the near future. All in all, I really think that Phineas and Ferb TV series was and still is a great animated cartoon show within the properties of Disney. It may not hold the “test of time” in terms of classics like other popular animated shows out there, but it still holds its own on Disney; remembered for being one of the more celebrated Disney Channel / Disney XD creations than others.
This brings me to talking about Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe, a 2020 movie release under the Phineas and Ferb franchise as well as the second feature film in the series. As mentioned, with the series pretty much wrapped up back in 2015, I wasn’t really expecting to see another Phineas and Ferb movie…. especially with it being almost five years after the series ended. Still, being a fan of the animated series, I certainly did love the idea of revisiting the Phineas and Ferb IP once again and was very curious to see this movie when it came out. After the initial announcement, I really didn’t hear much about the project until they (i.e. Disney) released the official movie trailer for the film, which definitely showcased plenty of zany fun that I remembered from watching the show. Plus, I liked how (judging from the trailer alone) that most of the original voice cast returned. So, in a nutshell, I was looking forward to seeing this new Phineas and Ferb movie, which was scheduled to be released on Disney+ on August 28th, 2020. I was a little busy during the time of its initial release, which is why I delayed my review for the movie until now. So, with some free time on the weekend, I decide to check out the movie on Disney+. And what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Despite some problems here and there, Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Against the Universe is delight to watch that captures the spirit and animated fun to the cartoon series. It’s not exact groundbreaking, but rather reinforces the ideas and humorous tale for an entertaining feature.
As a side-note….to the fans of the show that are curious about seeing this movie…. the film takes places sometime before the series final episode (i.e. “Last Day of Summer”). Just a little…. FYI to those curious.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe is directed by Bob Bowen, whose previously directed such animated projects such as Milo Murphy’s Law, Family Guy, and American Dad. Given his background in animation, Bowen seems like a perfect candidate to helm such a project like this. To his credit, Bowen really does succeed in this regard; approaching the source material with its fanbase in mind and never really upsetting the “apple cart” of the tried and true formula of the Phineas and Ferb franchise of which Povenmire and Marsh created long ago. This is kind of a good thing, especially with the show ending several years ago, with Bowen makes Candance Against the Universe have a “welcome back” type of feeling for its viewers rather than trying to reinvent itself or try to “push the boundaries” of what’s been done before. It’s a like catching up with some old cartoon friends, who still keep / retain the same loveable persona. In truth, Bowen makes the movie have a sense of adventure and excitement, which is a definite plus in my book, but never makes it too dark or too serious; something that I felt was a little bit in 2011’s Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension. As for the film’s story, Candance Against the Universe has plenty of callbacks and references from the TV series and feels very much in-line with what a fan of the show would come to expect, with plenty of wacky / silly adventures that the characters go off on, including “saving the day” and learning a valuable lesson along the way as well as humorous side characters and a few musical numbers along the way. This definitely treads into the realm of familiarity as a “double edge sword” aspect (more on that below), but it’s something I was kind of expecting. Thus, this particular aspect didn’t bother me as much. Basically, if you were a fan of the TV series, you’ll definitely like watching this movie and I think that Bowen did a good job in directing the feature.
In terms of presentation, Candance Against the Universe feels very much like the TV series with the animation style being similar to what’s come before from the cartoon franchise. It’s pretty much the same, but I think that the animation looks a tad bit more updated with a few sharper images and drawings here and there. So, while the movie’s animation won’t win any awards or overtake some of Disney’s animated features, the film certainly does look better than some of the episodes from the TV series, with plenty of bright colors and detailed aesthetics designs. Everything else, from cinematics to sound editing works in the movie’s favor, while the film’s score, which was composed by Danny Jacob (who previously did the music for the TV series) is solid and definitely fits and harmonizes with the wacky adventures of Phineas and Ferb (and Candance) goes through in the movie. Additionally, like the series, the film does have several new musical songs that the characters do sing and, while some are catchy, they are a little bit underwhelming and forget. Well….maybe not one that involves Isabella and Doofenshmirtz singing. That one is pretty good.
There are a few problematic areas that the movie faces, which makes Candance Against the Universe falter and can’t really overcome what’s come before in the franchise. Perhaps the most notable one is in its accessibility or overall likeness to the subject (i.e. the Phineas and Ferb series). Like many movies that take part of a popular franchise or TV series, the creation of a movie of that particular IP brand is delegated to the select few that have previous watched / experience the past endeavors of the franchise. Again, this can be seeing in several movies that have been based on TV series or video games (i.e. Entourage, Sex and the City, Downton Abbey, Warcraft, Final Fantasy, etc.). Candance Against the Universe pretty much falls into the category as the movie caters to its fans and not so much to the casual viewer. Of course, the movie is somewhat easy to figure out for the most part, but it will surely make non-Phineas and Ferb fans out there scratch their heads and wonder in a few familiar points, including Candance relationship with her brothers as well as Phineas and Ferb’s platypus being a secret agent spy. Again, the movie isn’t mind blogging like Tenet, but it those subtle nuances from the TV series that carry over into the film that will have non-viewers a little bit perplexed. Thus, the accessibility and appreciation of the project is definitely there for the fans of Phineas and Ferb and not so much everyone else.
Looking beyond that, Candance Against the Universe is, for lack of a better term, pretty much a elongated episode of the series. Naturally, the adventure in the movie is quite big and expansive, but isn’t quite the “big, bang, boom” that I was kind of expecting for a feature film of this caliber. What’s presented works, but I kind of felt I wanted to see something a little bit different in some ways. I don’t know…. it’s kind of hard to explain, but I was expecting something a bit more. Additionally, the movie’s story does have a “filler” scenes and sequences that, while fun and amusing, don’t really are necessary to the main plot; creating a few pacing problems along the way and making the feel longer than it should be. Also, there is a sense of familiarity with the movie, which can be a good thing, but its also can be a bad thing as Candance Against the Universe does have a dose predictability in it. Basically, if you’ve seeing show, its easy to see all the narrative beats and formulaic path that many of the threads follow. It’s not a dealbreaker, but well…. you know…. I wanted something a little more than just a expanded episode of the TV series.
What definitely does help overlook some of those blemishes is in the voice talents that Candance Against the Universe has assembled, with many (almost all) returning veterans from the TV series reprising their Phineas and Ferb character roles. Naturally, the main protagonist characters of Phineas, Ferb, and Candance (the trio of the Flynn-Fletcher siblings) have the spotlight of the feature and certainly are great as both characters themselves and by the voices that are provided for them. The character of Candance, who is voiced by actress Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical and The Suite Life of Zach and Cody), has always been a somewhat semi-antagonist / protagonist character as she’s always trying to “bust” her brother’s wacky inventions / creations. Like a few other episodes from TV series, Candance does have a large part of the film’s story, which definitely help flesh out the character and makes her a little bit more accessible. Plus, Tisdale is equally good in making Candance have a “larger than life” voice that she’s become skilled at doing. Behind her, actor Vincent Martella (Everybody Hates Chris and McFarland, USA) also returns to voice the role of Phineas, who, like Tisdale, sounds exactly the same and definitely helps the feature’s performance, with Phineas acting as the main component for the feature’s story every now and again, especially with his youthful optimism and “daring do” attitude. Last of the main Flynn-Fletcher trio siblings happens to talk the least, with the character of Ferb (like the show) only has a handful of dialogue lines in the movie as he’s more of “physical” character rather than a talkative one. While actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster provided the voice of Ferb in the TV series, Ferb in Candance Against the Universe is actually played by actor David Errigo Jr. (I’m Not Ashamed and 1983). Yes, it is sad that Brodie-Sangster did not return to the project as he’s one of the only ones that didn’t, but I think that Errigo Jr. does pretty good job in mimicking Brodie-Sangster’s voice for Ferb.
Looking beyond those three characters, Candance Against the Universe sees plenty of returning Phineas and Ferb characters appearing in the movie and have indeed easily slide back into the cartoon personas, with a lot of familiar secondary characters popping in and out of the feature as well as many returning veteran voice talents from the TV series to reprise their character roles. Much like in the show, Dan Povenmire, the co-creator of Phineas and Ferb, is exceptionally funny as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz and really does prove a lot of humor throughout the film (at least I think so) and (has to be expected) he gets a lot of screen time to prove. The same can be said for a lot of the other secondary characters in the show, which mostly consist of the friends of Phineas and Ferb. This includes actress Alyson Stoner (Step Up and Cheaper by the Dozen) as Isabella, actor Maulik Pancholy (Sandjay and Craig and 30 Rock), actor / writer Bobby Gaylor (Johnny Test and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore) as Buford, and actress Olivia Olson (Adventure Time and Love Actually) as Vanessa, all of whom reprise their roles and provide plenty of solid voice acting fun to their respective characters throughout. Loved it.
Everyone else, including co-creator Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (Milo Murphy’s Law and Pete the Cat) as Major Monogram, actor Jeff Viener (Ted and Family Guy) as Doofenshmirtz’s robot Norm, actress Kelly Hu (X2: X-Men United and The Scorpion King) as Candance’s friend Stacy, actor John O’Hurley (Seinfeld and The X-Files) as Doofenshmirtz’s brother Roger, actor Mitchell Musso (Pair of Kings and Hannah Montana) as Candance’s friend Jeremy, and actress Caroline Rhea (Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Sydney to the Max) and actor Richard O’Brien (Dark City and Ever After: A Cinderella Story) as Phineas, Ferb, and Candance’s mom and dad respectfully, round out the rest of the cast returning characters from the Phineas and Ferb show. While most of these characters are, more or less, smaller / minor players in Candance Against the Universe, their involvement is still a welcome one and adds a continuity familiarity to the feature.
As for the new players in the movie, I do have to say that actress Ali Wong (Birds of Prey and Always Be My Maybe) proves to be the best as Super Super Big Doctor, the self-proclaimed ruler of Feebla-Oot. Wong has recently made a name for herself of late and certainly is a welcomed addition to Phineas and Ferb franchise by projecting the same type of energy and charisma as many of the talents involved in this project. Likewise, the same can be said for all the various other new characters that appear in the film, including actor Wayne Brady (Whose Line is it Anyway? and The Bold and the Beautiful) as Stapler-Fist, actor Thomas Middleditch (Captain Underpants: The First Movie and Silicon Valley) as Garnoz, and actor Diedrich Bader (Office Space and Napoleon Dynamite) as Borthos. Lastly, actress Tiffany Haddish does play a small part in Candance Against the Universe and, while I don’t spoil it, it’s kind of pretty funny.
Phineas, Ferb, Candance, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, Perry the Platypus, and the whole gang return for another crazy animated adventure in the movie Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe. Director Bob Bowen latest project sees the return of the Disney Channel popular TV series for a new feature installment that keep the inherit fun and animated nuances of what made Phineas and Ferb enjoyable from the start. While the movie does tread into something pitfalls and runs the gambit of predictability, but there plenty of fun to be had within the film, especially thanks to Bowen’s direction, Povenmire and Marsh’s hand on the project, the return to core features of the show, and all the voice talents selected. Personally, I liked this movie. Wasn’t anything “mind blowing” or anything like that and there were a few problems throughout, but I felt like it was a pretty good feature to watch, especially since I was a fan of the show. All in all, it was good to catch up with Phineas, Ferb, and the rest of them. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is a solid “recommended” as I’m sure fans of the TV series will love it. Everyone else….I don’t know, which is why I’ll also put an “iffy choice” as a recommendation (for the non-viewers out there). Naturally, the movie sort of ends with much like an episode with a sort of episodic closure, which does offer the possibility for a sequel / next installment. Hopefully, this movie does good and we do. I would personally enjoy. Even if it doesn’t materialize, Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe was fun and entertaining distraction; offering up plenty of cartoon fun and humor while reconnecting with one of the better animated TV series from Disney.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)
Released On: August 28th, 2020
Reviewed On: October 12th, 2020
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candance Against the Universe is 84 minutes long and is rated G (or TV-G)