It’s been more than five years since the show ended, and this summer is entirely unlike any in memory, but in the world of ‘Phineas and Ferb’ none of that matters. The first story-length P&F material since 2015 comes out this Friday, and it’s a welcome reminder that the world will get back to normal eventually, and a lot of fun besides.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe!, which debuts on Disney+ Friday, August 28, manages the not-inconsiderable feat of breaking new ground, while at the same time offering a lot of fan service. There are callbacks aplenty to episodes of the show, ridiculous songs that get stuck in your head (“Adulting” will be with you for days, at least), and lots of Perry the Platypus. But, as the title implies, this movie centers around Candace, frustrated by her inability to bust her brothers and—like many real teenagers—feeling like the entire universe is against her. She gets kidnapped, along with Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s daughter Vanessa, by aliens, and Phineas, Ferb, and friends must set off to rescue her. Meanwhile, Doof is also planning to rescue Vanessa, and of course Perry gets involved, and this results in a marvelous team-up that sees, among other things, an epic confrontation between Doof and Isabella over leadership skills.
Central to the story is a planet named “Feebla-Oot” (which, show creator Dan Povenmire revealed to me, is “two all-beef” backwards, and his way of sneaking in the famous Big Mac jingle), populated by an alien race whose upper bodies temporarily explode when they’re given a gift, and ruled by one named “Super Super Big Doctor,” who becomes a kindred spirit to Candace over a shared irritation with brothers. Two of Doof’s “inators” are crucial to the plot, but in positive ways for a change: the Chicken Replace-inator from the episode “What a Croc!” is much more useful than it has any right to be. There are terrific surprises along the way, which you should find out for yourself, but suffice it to say that the show’s tradition of appealing both to kids and their parents is in fine form.
That being said, Candace Against the Universe! is not without flaws. Its focus on Candace’s reluctant maturity is nice to see for the character, and a deliberate nod to the fact that the show’s kid audience is older now; but fresh spins on comfort food are not always welcome, and some may find the movie a bit too serious in that regard. The story works a bit too hard to squeeze in all the characters it can, including Candace’s boyfriend Jeremy and friend Stacy. And the movie doesn’t work as a standalone: it’s hard for to know for sure, but it’s likely that anyone new to the Phineas and Ferb universe would be hopelessly lost.
It boils down to this: If you like Phineas and Ferb, you need to see Candace Against the Universe! It’s 84 minutes of fun and songs, and is almost certainly the only thing you’ll see this year that sets a touching moment of self-growth against a reference to The Naked Gun. You should watch it several times, in fact, not just to catch all the references, but also to make Disney that much more likely to green-light another one.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe! premieres on Disney+ this Friday, August 28. Check back here on GeekDad later in the week for my interview with Povenmire and co-creator Jeff “Swampy” Marsh.
Note: A screener of the movie was provided to me for review purposes. All opinions expressed here are my own.