Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Doug's 1st Movie

By Steve Davis

MARCH 29, 1999: 

D: Maurice Joyce; with the voices of Thomas McHugh, Fred Newman, Chris Phillips, Constance Shulman (G, 77 min.)

Doug Funnie is, in some respects, the Charlie Brown of the Nineties. Warmhearted, shy, and likable, he's frequently perplexed by the slings and arrows of adolescence, particularly when it comes to a certain little red-haired girl. But unlike Charles Schulz's character, Doug doesn't ponder theological and existential questions; his dilemmas are on a much smaller scale. The Nickelodeon network has showcased several smart animated series in the past few years, and Doug is probably the sweetest of them all. A daydreamer who just wants to do the right thing, Doug is a great role model for kids. The cynic might say that Doug is a white-bread idealization of today's teenager because he's not every parent's nightmare. True, there's no edge to Doug (his humor is corny, at best) but it's comforting and familiar. In Doug's 1st Movie, Doug and his gang get full-screen treatment, but with limited success. The movie's story is farfetched when compared to the television series' usual subjects: Doug and his best friend, Skeeter, befriend a lovable lake monster (think Loch Nessie meets E.T.) and must protect him from Mr. Bluff, the town tycoon who owns the polluted body of water from which the creature came. (No doubt the name that they give to the monster -- Herman Melville -- will go over the heads of most of the movie's viewers, including some of the adults in the audience.) There's also a more traditional subplot about Doug's frustrated attempts to woo Patti away from the clutches of an obnoxious upperclassman in time for the Valentine Day's dance. Unfortunately, these narratives don't devote nearly enough time to two of the series' most entertaining characters: Doug's nutty dog, Pork Chop, and his sharp-tongued sister, Judy. Expanding the television's half-hour format, by more than doubling it, is a little disconcerting; the longer length (as well as the movie theatre setting) diminishes the intimacy of the time spent with Doug and friends. Still, if you're a fan of creator Jim Jinkins' colorful characters with purple faces and green hair, you'll overlook these things and enjoy the movie for what it's worth. To borrow from Charles Schulz, you're a good man, Doug Funnie.
2.5 stars

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