Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe doesn’t bring many new tricks, but still revives the energy of the original Disney series.
This review of Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe is spoiler-free.
For 222 episodes, brothers Phineas and Ferb enjoyed summer. Every day became a blank canvass, for the siblings and for the audience of kids wishing their summers looked half as fun. The TV show ran for seven years on Disney Channel, though rarely strayed from its concrete format: the brothers cook up some wild invention and subsequent experience, their sister Candace finds out and wants to expose them, some wacky thing happens with their platypus named Perry, and everything gets cleaned up before their mom comes home. The brothers never get in trouble. Candace always ends up being upset. And their parents are none the wiser.
In Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, the second film made in this world created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, the story centers on the sister in the family, the teenager usually pigeon-holed to one emotion. Kidnapped by aliens, Candace (Ashley Tisdale) becomes the “Chosen One” on a new planet, while her brothers, Perry the Platypus (Dee Bradley Baker), and Dr. Doofenshmirtz (Povenmire) track her down. Candace, feeling unneeded and under-appreciated, welcomes this new life, bonding with the leader of this species, Super Super Big Doctor (Ali Wong). Though the rest of the events are telegraphed, the story remains fun and filled with absurdity, much like its corresponding series.
The film checks several boxes you might expect when watching a movie made for kids. One villain becomes lovable, while another shows a true, dark nature. Catchy songs pop up every 20 or so minutes. Side characters get just enough screen-time and reoccurring gags to remain relevant. And it’s no spoiler that the good guys win in the end. Somehow, even if this film was made just to make money and fill up the Disney+ platform, it puts a smile onto your face. The writers and director Bob Bowen all understand what kind of film they’re making, and their self-awareness makes the film better as it rolls along. They’re winking at you in nearly every scene.
By switching the perspective onto a character the audience has been conditioned to dislike, Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe makes the case for Candace as a hero in this story. She deserves the spotlight just as much as her brothers. She has more than enough smarts, willpower, and strength to save the universe by herself. Giving her an opportunity to drive the story freshens up the tried-and-true formula this series used for nearly a decade.
The work by the voice cast might not represent anything revolutionary, but the performances are more than fine. Everyone seems to be having a grand time, and you don’t hear the paychecks being cashed. For kids, the film is a reminder of the show they loved. For parents, it isn’t nearly as insufferable as it could have been. The Chicken-Replace-inator gives you a chuckle every single time, the family and friendship fill you with little bouts of joy, and the idea of an enemy exploding because of free items is ingenious.
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe provides parents an addition to a streaming service that is a sure-fire way to keep their kids busy, and that’s quite a value during everyone’s extended period of time in their homes.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.