It’s the set-up for a TV show, but it’s cute.
Arlo Beauregard (Michael J. Woodard) is a singing and dancing anthropomorphic alligator who was found as a baby by a swamp-dweller named Edmée (Annie Potts). She raises him to adolescence, but finally tells him that he has a father named Ansel (Vincent Rodriguez III) in New York City. Arlo sets out into the world and meets a giantess named Bertie (Mary Lambert) who saves him from a group of hillbillies aiming to kidnap him: Ruff, Stucky, and The Beast (Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Tatasciore). The pair then encounter a group of scamming wrestlers: Tiger girl Alia, pink furball Furlecia, fish-man Marcellus, and rodent leader Teeny-Tiny Tony (Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale). Together, the whole squad heads up north to New York to try and reconnect Arlo with his father.
So, at the end of this film, it’s revealed that the entire thing was a pilot for a show called I Heart Arlo which apparently revolves around the cast of this film trying to revitalize a dilapidated neighborhood near New York. It’s not unusual for a show to do a feature-length pilot, usually a two or three episode arc, but this is the second one I can think of where a completely independent movie tells its own story just to set up the world and then the show takes it from there. The first was Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which people seem to forget was a movie first. The world this film builds is sufficiently interesting to set-up a lot more stories, but it does it in a way that feels incidental to the story.
The characters are surprisingly well-crafted for a movie like this, mostly due to the fact that the majority of them are foils for Arlo’s outgoing nature, optimism, and innocence. I mean, there aren’t a lot of kids films where they introduce some of the heroes as people who are faking losing a deathmatch in order to scam people for money. Also, the fact that Furlecia, who is a giant pink furball, is the wrestler just makes it that much better. We don’t get a full picture of all of their backstories, but we do get a fairly clear image of who they are, and that’s enough for something like this.
As far as the plot, it’s a pretty straightforward odyssey going from the swamp to the Big City. It’s been done before, so the focus is mostly on the feelings of the people involved rather than the plot. The musical numbers are pretty great. They vary in style throughout the film, but many of them are akin to big Broadway numbers which are in line with the movie’s New York setting. The character designs are excellent as are the settings.
Overall, not a bad movie, but the fact still remains that it holds back on a lot of stuff just to save it for later. I’m sure the show will be fun for kids.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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