Saturday, April 20, 2024

Phineas & Ferb: Mission Marvel Seizes the Day

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I’m not sure how much people without children are aware of Phineas and Ferb, or if they are still as cool now as they were a couple of years ago. In fact it’s off the air now, though a feature film is in the works. But this is yet another example of why all the innovation and real thought in television seems to be reserved for children’s programming.

The general concept of the show is that there are two stepbrothers, Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher, who live in Danville, the heart of the Tri-State Area. They have a penchant for building things and a determination to make the most of their summer vacation. So they, and their group of quirky friends, build things like shirk rays and backyard roller-coasters. You know, normal kids stuff.

Woven into this is their sister Candace’s mission to make their parents aware of the stuff that her brothers get up to, and the adventures of their pet platypus, Perry, who is in fact a secret agent for the Organization Without a Cool Acronym (O.W.A.C.A.) and regularly mixes it up with his nemesis, the comically inept Doctor Heinz Doofenshmirtz, a member of the Evil Organization LOVEMUFFIN (League of Villainous Evildoers Maniacally United for Frightening Investments in Naughtiness).

Often the two above things are related, so that it’s Perry and Doctor Doofenshmirtz’s actions that make the boys’ inventions disappear just as Mom is coming into the back yard.

And there are also musical number. Oh the musical numbers.

Because the premise of this show is so absurd by design (boys vs. girls robot battles!) a crossover situation with superheroes is perfectly reasonable. And let’s have Spiderman be one of the Avengers, because the Disney channel had its shit together (rights-wise) way better than Marvel Studios.

The plot of this particular movie (extended episode… whatever) is that the combination of the kids’ shenanigans involving a space station and space elevator (all of which they built before 10am) and other shenanigans with Doctor Doofenshmirtz and his Power-Draininator result in a group of Marvel heroes (specifically Iron Man, Thor, Spiderman, and the Hulk) being drained of their powers just as they were battling against a Villain Team-up of Red Skull, Venom, Whiplash, and MODOK.

Awkward, right?

So SHIELD is on the case. They find the kids and ask them, “wtf?”. The kids don’t know anything about it (The two main plotlines in each episode are always hilariously unaware of each other) but agree to use their considerable brain-power to whip up a solution. So they go into their Secret Hideout for Emergency Defense (or SHED) and build a machine to restore everyone’s powers.

But, oh no! Big Sister Candace, who is a huge Marvel Fangirl, wants to help in her derpy star-struck way. But then she pushes the wrong button or whatever and the heroes end up with the wrong powers.

Thor is climbing walls. It’s funny.

Meanwhile, the Super-Villain Team-Up has gone to seek out the source of the power drain. They meet Doctor Doofenshmirtz and surmise that his appearance of total idiocy must be a ruse of some kind.

Heinz, of course, is just happy to have four new friends he can hang out with.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Perry the Platypus is on a mission to protect the heroes from the villains in the guise of… a platypus in a superhero costume. With a flying skateboard.

But the real heart of the story is Candace and Isabella and they way they both feel alienated from the boy’s club. Candace sees herself as screw-up and Isabella feels invisible, especially given Phineas’s obliviousness to her obvious romantic feelings.

After a song about this, the girls figure out that the Superheroes powers are probably being stored in a canister of Science on the Space Station, so they take the Space Elevator up there and get the canister. But also, Candace pushed to wrong button and now the Space Station is crashing. Oops.

But it’s okay, they crash it in the middle of Danville just in time to give the heroes their powers back for the Big Fight.

Yes, the Big Fight. Unfortunately for Doctor Doofenshmirtz, his new friendship with his fellow villains has gone sour and they lock him in a cage. They plan to use his machine to DESTROY THE WHOLE TRI-STATE AREA and drain the powers from all the superheroes in the world.

Heinz thinks this is all a little much. So after her and Perry free themselves, he joins the good guys in the fight, shooting his former friends with his Waffle-inator. It shoots waffles.

The baked goods prove decisive and the good guys win. The kids are praised for their contribution by Nick Fury, and Stan Lee gives everyone hotdogs. And Doctor Doofenshmirtz comically destroys the crashed Space Station just seconds before Mom sees it.

All is right with the world.

To be honest, this movie is a very typical Phineas and Ferb episode, except that there are Marvel characters in it. It hits all the same beats that a ten-minute episode would. Crazy opening build, problem or challenge to prompt the second build; Candace tries to be a wet blanket, possibly because she wants to go off to do teenager things with her BFF Stacy or her love interest Jeremy, tries to find Mom, or occasionally Dad; Perry confronts Doctor Doofenshmirtz, gets captured, escapes, and in so doing destroys the evidence of the second build. Every time.

There were a few times when they did something different, like in the excellent Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension, but in general, this is the formula. And it’s worked for four seasons.

This must be because there is just something so uplifting about this show. It’s totally, unashamedly optimistic. It’s focuses entirely on positive, non-violent interactions. It glorifies science, engineering, and cooperation.

And it’s actually, objectively funny. Without being mean-spirited. Even the villain has a wonderful vulnerable humanity to him. And also genre-savviness, which is awesome. People are decent, smart, and want the world to be better.

If you have kids, get them to watch this show. If you don’t have kids, watch this show anyway. It’s a wonderful antidote to the Acedia going around.

Summer Belongs to Us, guys.

All images courtesy of Disney XD

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