Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (U)

Review by Jack Foley

THERE now seems to be a clear divide between the best in cinema animation and those that still struggle to reach the giddy heights enjoyed by Pixar and Dreamworks.

Sadly, for all of its invention and charisma, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius falls into the latter category. It's fun in places, colourful to look at, and should keep the majority of kids amused, but there is something missing which is likely to leave adults in particular pining for another Woody or Shrek reunion.

Jimmy Neutron, which marks a collaboration between Universal Pictures and Nickleodeon, focuses on the life of an ambitious boy genius, his pet dog and their friends as they strive for greatness and recognition.

Aside from wanting to communicate with aliens, Jimmy and his pals are dying to go to the town's new theme park, Retroland, on opening night, but their parents forbid them because it's a school night.

The boys sneak out anyway but while they are having a good time, their parents are abducted by hungry aliens and it is left to Jimmy and co to save them from becoming a fast food meal.

The moral of the story? That children should never talk to strangers (unless they are the police) and should always listen to their parents. Jimmy does neither, of course, and for the most part seems to be having fun until events spiral beyond his control.

But where Jimmy Neutron differs from, say, the likes of Monsters Inc is in the way in which it conveys its message. Pixar seem to be able to strike a perfect balance between sentiment and fun, seldom resorting to obvious tactics or a heavy-handed approach, while the chasing pack seem incapable of doing so.

Pixar's achievement is all the more remarkable given that their central characters have ranged from toys to insects to monsters, while Jimmy is human and should therefore be more identifiable and sympathetic.

That isn't to say he is a lost cause, however - there are far worse animated features out there. And besides, Jimmy Neutron shows more ingenuity in its pacy 84 minutes than in numerous two-hour plus formula blockbusters, while there is a very witty nod to The Blair Witch Project (geared towards the adults) which should appeal to the film buffs.

But, on the whole, you get the feeling that this has been put together with a younger age group in mind and, therefore, will have very limited appeal (particularly given that it is going up the far superior Ice Age, which is also released today).