As a little kid, Jimmy Neutron was always one of my favorite characters, thanks to the 2001 cinematic experience “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” At the age of four, I even recommended that my parents name my little brother, Sacha, “Jimmy.”
Yes, the television show, “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius” was great, and I remember enjoying the reruns, but it finished airing when I wasn’t even old enough to read. Thus, episodes of the show were not easily accessible. On the other hand, the movie was readily available via DVD anytime I wanted it.
The film follows Jimmy Neutron, a brilliant inventor, and his elementary school friends, as they attempt to rescue their abducted parents from a planet of gooey aliens. The parent-napping was made possible by Jimmy himself, as he sent the coordinates of Earth into space in hopes of making contact with friendly aliens. Before the kids find out why their parents are missing, they partake in a heinous darty and wake up with massive kid hangovers, which include tummy aches, boo-boos and a desperate need for lunch. They subsequently realize the value of quality parenting and, led by Jimmy, orchestrate a plan to fly to space to save their folks from the throes of the gooey aliens and their chicken monster-god, who has an appetite for humans.
Before re-watching the movie, the moments that had stuck in my mind were the silliest ones, such as Jimmy’s friend Sheen peeing in the shower (and proclaiming it to no one in particular), and Jimmy’s accidental shrinking of the shrill teacher Mrs. Fowl. However, upon rewatching, I realized that the movie offers several valuable and wise lessons for kids that are still exceedingly relevant for children today.
In the animated TV realm of the 2000s, most protagonists were extraordinary because of some sort of supernatural power. Whether it be Timmy Turner with his fairy godparents, Danny Phantom with his ghost powers or Aang with his bending powers, all of these characters benefit from otherworldly abilities. Conversely, “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” introduced a hero whose only superpower is his intellect and ambition. Many of Jimmy’s inventions fail, such as his bubble transportation device and jetpack. However, he never gives up and keeps working on new devices and strategies until his goal of saving his parents is complete. Jimmy’s work ethic and self-made nature is inspiring for kids who are used to seeing characters with unreal powers.
And during times of adversity, Jimmy demonstrates the value of perseverance and searching for a solution instead of sulking. In his lowest moments of the movie, Jimmy has the two most groundbreaking realizations of the film (the first being that all the kids’ parents have been abducted, the second being a strategy to escape an alien dungeon). This may be an overly simplistic way of looking at the world, but it is a usefully optimistic portrayal of struggle and redemption for kids, who will undoubtedly face misfortune at certain points in the future.
Jimmy also exemplifies the adage “with great power, comes great responsibility.” He is a genius, but he does not let his greatness get to his head. He remains humble and treats his less intelligent friends, Carl and Sheen, with respect. Through his creation of silly inventions, such as burping soda, Jimmy maintains that he is not above his friends or audience.
Several lessons from “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” feel ahead of their time. For example, the importance of privacy and not sharing personal information is made clear through Jimmy’s blunder of sending his coordinates to space. This lesson is pertinent to kids today, many of whom have smartphones and are on social media by the age of 11.
Similarly, the issue of actively seeking out popularity, or clout chasing, has worsened with this increase in social media use by kids. One of Jimmy’s classmates, Cindy, originally falls into this trap by obsessing over the class’s cool guy, Nick, even though she and Jimmy share more in common, such as an adoration of space. By the end of the movie, Cindy becomes disinterested in Nick, and a future relationship with Jimmy is alluded to, which emphasizes the importance of finding a relationship based on the right fit as opposed to popularity.
It may seem like this analysis is too in-depth for a kid’s movie. However, while I may not have been able to point out all of these hidden values at the age of four, it does not mean that I was not subconsciously absorbing them. You don’t always need to be aware of why you are drawn to great art. This is the beauty of good child entertainment in particular. Like “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” it should impact its audience in ways they cannot even fully comprehend at the time of first viewing it.
Daily Arts Writer Aidan Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.