Arlo the Alligator Boy review: A movie musical sets the stage for a Netflix show
In 2001, the animated movie Jimmy Neutron: Young Boy Genius presented a generation to the crazy prodigy and his wacky pals. Fans of the Nickelodeon series The Experiences of Jimmy Neutron, Young Boy Genius can thank the film’s box-office success for making it possible for the program’s three-year run: Unlike other Nickelodeon films, like Rugrats in Paris or The Wild Thornberrys film, Jimmy Neutron was the start of the story, rather of a theatrical extension of it. In retrospection, however, while Jimmy Neutron: Young Boy Genius came out in theaters (and was chosen for the first-ever Academy Award for finest Animated Function), it feels more like a TELEVISION film. It’s a zany light-hearted romp that did a fantastic job of establishing Jimmy’s future experiences, to the point where the program probably left fonder memories than the film that stimulated it. (A minimum of, evaluating by a casual Slack study of Polygon staffers.)
Netflix’s brand-new animated musical function Arlo the Alligator Young Boy falls under that exact same box. Ryan Crago’s directorial launching is a sweet experience with an underlying message about individuals remaining real to themselves. Like the Jimmy Neutron film did twenty years earlier, Arlo presents a goofy cast of characters and an abundant world that eventually serves more as an extended pilot episode than as a theatrical film, offered how it invests the majority of the film presenting characters, settings, and ideas without completely establishing them. That’s left for the upcoming Netflix tv series, which will continue Arlo’s experiences.)
[Ed. Note: This post contains light setup spoilers for Arlo the Alligator Boy.]
Arlo the Alligator Young Boy follows the titular young alligator-human hybrid, who’s been raised in the overload by a woman called Edmée (Annie Potts), however imagine a world behind his bayou. Arlo (Michael J. Woodward) quickly discovers that he’s really from New york city City — Edmée discovered him when he was simply a child, adrift in a deserted drifting basket like a flaky green Moses. Arlo triggers on a mission to discover his dad, and along the method satisfies mild giantess Bertie (Mary Lambert), along with a gang of misfits led by Teeny Tiny Tony (Tony Hale), a little Italian male who seems part rodent. They venture up the Eastern coast and land in New york city City, where Arlo ultimately discovers some essential aspects of his past.
Teeny Tiny Tony’s pals are a diverse lot, each with an unique character. In brief order, Arlo satisfies the sentient pink hairball Furlecia (Jonathan Van Ness), the starry-eyed tiger-girl Alia (Haley Tju), and the walking, talking fish Marcellus (Brett Gelman). The film mainly serves to establish this cast, presenting them and meaning their characteristics, however apart from Bertie, who satisfies Arlo initially and gets her own parallel character arc, none of the others actually get an opportunity to command the spotlight. After all, this is Arlo’s origin story. However the tips about the capacity of this kooky cast is simply among the factors Arlo the Alligator Young Boy feels more like a TELEVISION film than a theatrical one. The supporting characters slide into the story a little too late to make a huge impact, but they’re captivating enough to remember after the fact.
There’s a storybook softness in the movie’s settings, from the golden-swathed bayou where Arlo grows up to the bioluminescent algae of a beach in the Carolinas. The movie colors the world in the same warm glow that Arlo feels as he ventures out of his swamp for the first time, encountering seemingly mundane things like train rides and ice-cream sundaes, which just seem amazing to him. While the character designs are wacky and fantastical, the setting is rooted in reality. The real-world locations feel elevated and just as lively and spunky as the characters themselves.
The musical numbers are particularly gorgeous, especially the infectious pop duet Bertie and Arlo sing while dancing in the glowing bioluminescent algae. Arlo is the sort of character who frequently breaks out in song and pulls everyone around him into the number, then uses those songs to push the plot along. The musical interludes don’t slow down the story, but apart from that Arlo/Bertie duet, they’re mostly weightless enough to not get stuck in viewers’ head. (That might actually be a perk.)
Ultimately, everything about Arlo the Alligator Boy feels like a setup for something yet to come. That isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it does shift the audience’s expectations for the movie.
The songs are fun and the message of found family and celebrating differences is sweet. But the group’s whole journey to New York is just prolonged exposition, designed to introduce the main players and places for the eventual show. The real inciting incident of the Arlo saga isn’t Arlo leaving the swamp, it’s the finale of the movie. While Arlo finds his father, there are still more mysteries to uncover. (Like who the hell is his mom, and why doesn’t that question ever occur to him?!) It feels like the creators behind Arlo aren’t showing their full hands, they’re keeping their cards close. That gamble may turn off some viewers, even as it speaks to the rich capacity of the fun world Crago has created.
Arlo the Alligator Young Boy is now streaming on Netflix.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.