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Movie Review

It’s safe to say that Nickelodeon’s Arnold is the most lovable football-headed fourth-grader in the world. A tiny baseball cap perches precariously between Arnold’s two uncontrollable shocks of blonde hair. His mouth moves restlessly from one side of his head to the other. And he always looks at the bright side of every situation. That’s a good thing, because as Arnold makes the jump from the small screen to the giant one, his neighborhood comes under attack and the grownups have given up all hope. So what’s a glass-half-full kind of guy to do? Save the day, of course. So Arnold and his best friend, Gerald, set off to take down an evil corporation bent on tearing down their homes and building a mall-plex in their stead.

Lucky for Arnold, his grandpa tells him the story of the "Tomato Incident," a confrontation that happened right in front of their house between Colonial settlers and British Red Coats. Arnold gets to thinking: If such a famous battle (the settlers beat back the Brits by throwing tomatoes at them) happened on his street, surely there should be a document somewhere declaring his neighborhood an historic location, rendering it immune from overzealous developers. Arnold discovers that there is indeed such a document, but alas, it has fallen into the hands of Mr. Scheck, the greedy, unscrupulous president of FTI, the very company building the mall-plex. The battle is set. Arnold must retrieve that document before the bulldozers start dozing. Can the little guy with the big, lopsided head pull off a miracle? And who is the mysterious benefactor who keeps calling to give him clues?

positive elements: Arnold’s cheery outlook on life is inspirational. His friends rib him about always looking on the positive side of things, but his enthusiasm is contagious. Working to save the neighborhood, Arnold shows a love for history, tradition and the stability of family. "What’s wrong with old things?" he wonders aloud. "Some old things are great." Neighborhood girl Helga (who has a passionate love/hate relationship with Arnold) gushes about his "unerring sense of right and wrong."

Elsewhere, using a few misguided adults to make the point, Hey Arnold! berates greed and exposes the damage it does. The film makes a half-hearted attempt to draw a line between real life and video games ("Real life isn’t like a game. You can’t always win," Arnold tells Gerald), but since the movie’s young heroes end up conquering all the bad guys just like in a video game, that message will fly right over the heads of most kids.

spiritual content: Helga kneels and prays before a homemade shrine to Arnold she has constructed in her attic. Gerald whispers a prayer when the going gets tough, to which Arnold remarks, "I didn’t know you were religious!" Gerald responds, "Neither did I."

sexual content: Helga fiercely kisses Arnold on the lips. And when the addled Arnold says he needs to go lie down, Helga responds, "Wonderful, I’ll go with you." When a lady kisses Gerald, his body goes stiff and he falls over backwards.

violent content: Arnold’s quest to recover the document is a violent one. A runaway bus careens through the city, jumping over a gap in the roadway (a nod to Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s daredevil antics in the R-rated movie Speed) and ultimately crashes into an oncoming bulldozer. A couple of large explosions bring down a building and a highway off-ramp. Police squads forcefully shut down a "Blockapalooza" concert that Arnold organizes to help save the neighborhood. Helga’s father, Bob, and one of FTI’s henchmen, Nick, get into a brawl. Using fists, feet and kitchen utensils, the two duke it out ("I’m going to beat the living snot out of you") until a jar of pickles inexplicably turns Bob into the Incredible Hulk. Arnold and Gerald fight their way out of the clutches of FTI security guards by hitting one of them in the crotch. Helga uses a slingshot to shoot rocks at a cat. She also hits an unsuspecting adult with a suction-tipped arrow. Scheck breaks a video monitor with his fist. Arnold's grandma pushes a construction worker up against a vehicle, then commandeers a bulldozer, using it to flip over other bulldozers.

crude or profane language: One use each of the words "geesh" and "heck." Two profane phrases ("what the . . ." and "pain in the . . .") are uttered but not completed. A kid calls one of the bad guys a "big doughnut hole." Putdowns such as "stupid," "suckers," "rat fink," "loser," "nut," "moron" and "lame-brained" are all used. COLOR="#ff0000">


drug and alcohol content: Nick drinks at a bar.

other negative elements: Dangling from a harness lowered through Nick’s ceiling (like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible), Arnold steals a key from around the man’s neck. Without putting too fine a point on it, that constitutes breaking and entering, and burglary. Later, he and Gerald sneak into FTI’s headquarters, using the key to open a safe deposit box. Arnold concocts a lie to persuade a government worker to help them find the document.

While played for laughs, Arnold’s grandparents are, to put it kindly, eccentric. Grandma spends the bulk of her screen time getting arrested (at the Blockapalooza event) and then attempting to escape from jail. She eventually succeeds by tunneling her way out and emerging through a woman’s toilet.

Arnold and Gerald’s spooky visit to the city coroner will scare some younger viewers. Gerald himself passes out when he see the legs of a corpse.

A Lil’ Romeo song (featuring Master P) plays under the credits.

conclusion: A cute kid with a sunny outlook on life who saves his neighborhood from demolition. What’s not to like? Teamwork, friendship, perseverance and courage are primary themes. But so are violent confrontations, explosions, a flippant view of idol worship, deception and taking far too many risks—especially for a 10-year-old. Are your kids already hooked on the TV show? Hey Arnold! The Movie doesn’t go anywhere the series hasn’t already gone. Never heard of Arnold? I don’t see any compelling reason to change that.

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the voices of Spencer Klein as Arnold; Francesca Smith as Helga; Jamil Walker Smith as Gerald; Dan Castellaneta as Grandpa Phil and Nick Vermicelli; Tress MacNeille as Grandma Gertie and Mayor Dixie; Paul Sorvino as Scheck; Jennifer Jason Leigh as Bridget; Christopher Lloyd as the coroner; Maurice LaMarche as Helga’s dad


Tuck Tucker ( )


Paramount Pictures



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In Theaters

On Video

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Steven Isaac

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