“Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe,” Against the Universe

Matthew Gaetano Culture Staff Writer

This year has been a slow one for the realm of film, with few movies of true significance being released each month. Those films that do hold value have been relegated, mostly, to debuting across various streaming platforms. While this setup may not provide the same butter-scented, velvet-curtained atmosphere of movie theaters, it was a necessary step in maintaining the film industry throughout 2020. Exclusive content has always been a hallmark of streaming services with notable examples being, Netflix’s, “Stranger Things,” or “The Mandalorian,” on Disney+. Yet, with 2020’s distinct social landscape, now has become an optimal time, more than any, for streaming services to provide exclusive content, and to capitalize on the disrupted film industry. Disney has done exactly that, with the fan-favorite animated series, “Phineas and Ferb,” making its return after concluding five years ago in 2015. The show arrives again in the form of a new movie, “Candace Against the Universe,” as an exclusive piece of content on the highly-successful steaming service, Disney+. 

With the commercial incentive of releasing this film, the movie begs the question of whether or not it will live up to the quality of the original series. As far as cartoons go, “Phineas and Ferb,” was very formulaic: each episode entailed the titular characters constructing a spectacular invention that their sister, Candace, sought to reveal to their mom. This, being done with the hope that her brothers would be punished for their creative shenanigans. Each episode was backed by a story of the main family’s pet, Perry the Platypus, doubling as a secret agent, and attempting to foil the pseudo-malevolent plots of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Most, if not all, of these plots saw Dr. Doofenshmirtz attempting to utilize an inator (a machine created by Doofenshmirtz in an attempt to take over the Tri-state area) as revenge for some form of comedically melancholy childhood trauma. In the end of each episode, Doofenshmirtz’s plans would be thwarted by Perry the Platypus and the corresponding inator would be used to hide any trace of Phineas and Ferb’s invention of the day. All of this happening, just in time for the primary characters’ mother to miss out on witnessing her sons’ latest fantastical creation. Though it was simple in plot, the cartoon delivered in abundance with catchy songs, and witty humor; at least it seemed that way, watching as a kid.

Now, the film itself (like the other “Phineas and Ferb” related movies and specials) strays from the predictable episodic format. The story, which takes Candace as the lead in place of her brothers, is simple. Tired of being overshadowed by Phineas and Ferb, Candace begins to question her own self-worth until being captured by aliens, and being revealed as their “Chosen One.” With a newfound purpose, Candace grows content with her alien lifestyle, while her brothers seek to return her to earth. On their quest to retrieve their sister, Phineas and Ferb are accompanied by a plethora of recurring characters. Among them is Isabella (a self-confident girl scout), Buford (a lovably ignorant bully), Baljeet (a squeaky-voiced nerd), Vanessa (the moody daughter of Dr. Doofenshmirtz), Dr. Doof himself, and Perry the Platypus. Upon reaching Candace, the group learns that she doesn’t wish to leave her new found role as “Chosen One,” which causes conflict between the protagonists until she inevitably makes up with her family and friends at the end of the film. Candace, of course, does not have a change of heart about her role until realizing the dark secret of the alien species she has allied herself with.

The story, though simple, has potential, especially in the hands of provenly-capable showrunners Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. However, after watching, “Candace Against the Universe” unfold, it seems the two fell short on delivering this continuation of their beloved series. The characters are kept consistent to the original cartoon, but the humor falls flat for the most part; there are a few lines from Dr. Doofenshmirtz that elicit at the very least a smirk, in addition to a very stupid usage of onamotopoeia at the end that had me laughing. These instances being set aside, the comedy was all less clever, and the songs all less catchy than that of most “Phineas and Ferb” related projects. Part of me believes I’m simply too old for the humor here, let alone the movie in general. Yet, the movie contains a number of references to the original show and deals some heavy damage to the fourth wall, both of these things seemingly intended for the audience that grew up watching the series. 

The juxtaposition of these factors leads me to wonder: who this movie is for? It’s too dull and childish for the audience of college-aged and older viewers who have a fondness for the classic cartoon, and I doubt it would have the same appeal to younger audiences that didn’t know the original show. With that being said, I can’t recommend the movie to older fans looking for a nostalgic and fun time. Additionally, even though the movie may be appropriate for younger audiences, I can’t seem to recommend it to them when the classic show and the much better animated feature, “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension,” are available on the very same streaming service. Ultimately, “Candace Against The Universe,” and its messages of self-worth sought to appeal to everyone and in doing so appealed to no one. It seems that without a target audience, rather than Candace, the movie has pitted itself against the universe.