Friday, September 6, 2002
The success of two "Toy Story" movies, "Shrek" and "Ice Age" has proven that computer-generated animation is here to stay. Now the Oscar-nominated cartoon movie "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" has spawned its own TV cartoon series "Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" (7:30 p.m., Nickelodeon).
Why am I not celebrating? Because I prefer traditional two-dimensional animation to the cold cyber-gimmickry behind "Jimmy Neutron." 2D animation is one of the great artistic achievements of the 20th century. To date, even the best computer-animated cartoons have gag-driven showcases for fledgling technologies. I predict that "Shrek" and even "Toy Story" will look very dated by the year 2015. By then "Snow White" will still inspire awe, more than 80 years after its creation.
As kid's fare goes, "Neutron" is amusing enough. Like many Nickelodeon cartoons, it contains humor that is both child-friendly and sophisticated enough to entertain parents. Jimmy Neutron (whose voice is provided by Debi Derryberry) is the boy next door who just happens to be a scientific genius, capable of the most fantastic inventions. He sports a hairdo that resembles that of the Big Boy corporate logo.
"Neutron" is filled with knowing pop-culture references. Jimmy's dog is named Goddard, presumably after the father of American rocketry. Jimmy and his pals, including Carl (Rob Paulsen) and Sheen (Jeff Garcia) live in the cute-as-a-button town of Retroville. Enough said.
In the first episode, Jimmy tires of his unpopular smarty-pants status and invents the Brain Drain 8000, a machine that turns him into a happy idiot. Unfortunately, Jimmy forsakes his gray matter just when he needs it the most. One of his earlier experiments has sent an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
While watching Jimmy change from smart to dumb to clever again, I couldn't help remember watching the same transformation afflict Homer Simpson. Only in Homer's case, he went from dumb to smart and then back. And the action on "The Simpsons" seemed much more fluid and less self-consciously clever. Jimmy's genius status will also remind many cartoon enthusiasts of "Dexter's Laboratory." Only "Dexter" unfolds with bold graphics and a powerful style that recalls more than five decades of animation tradition. "Dexter" may not live in Retroville, but then again "Dexter" doesn't have to make that joke. The cartoonist's art speaks for itself.
ï¿½ Turner Classic Movies begins an eight-film, two-night celebration of detective novelist Raymond Chandler. Tonight's offering includes three screen classics based on a Chandler screenplay, including "Double Indemnity" (5 p.m.), "The Blue Dahlia" (7 p.m.) and "Strangers on a Train" (10 p.m.).
Tonight's other highlights
ï¿½ Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a teenager runs away after meeting a stranger on the Internet.
ï¿½ A photogenic coed army battles intergalactic insect invaders in director Paul Verhoeven's violent 1997 satire "Starship Troopers" (7 p.m., Fox), a peculiar parable about war and propaganda that is more timely than ever.
ï¿½ Steven Seagal stars in the futuristic 1996 thriller "The Glimmer Man" (7 p.m., UPN).
ï¿½ Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (8 p.m., CBS): repeat profiles of musicians the Dixie Chicks and Carlos Santana.
ï¿½ Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Eve and Alicia Keys perform on "Countdown To Kickoff: The NFL Times Square Concert" (9 p.m., CBS). The concert was taped Thursday.
A commitment-shy record store owner (John Cusack) recalls his failed love affairs in the 2000 comedy "High Fidelity" (9:05 p.m., Starz).