After failing to bust her brothers for the entire summer, Candace (Ashley Tisdale) becomes depressed about her position in life until she’s abducted by aliens. Phineas and Ferb (Vincent Martella and David Errigo) enlist their friends to rescue her in addition to the tagalong Dr. Doofenshmirtz (Dan Povenmire), as it turns out his daughter Vanessa (Olivia Olson) was also on the same abduction shuttle. Meanwhile in the background, the family pet/secret agent Perry the Platypus (Dee Bradley Baker) goes incognito to help his owners save their sibling without being discovered.
Phineas and Ferb is one of the most treasured animated series spawned from the Disney Channel. Created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh after working on The Simpsons, Rocko’s Modern Life, and the first few seasons of Family Guy, they solidified themselves as animation icons with a charming series about two brothers who spend the summer building contraptions to make the most of their free time. Along with the other memorable characters that played off each-other organically, one of the main anti-heroes was their sister Candace, who spent the entire series trying to prove to their mother that her brothers were capable of inventing machines that would land them CEO jobs at Apple. These elements are what made the show creative, calculating in its animation, and best of all an experimental stage for some of the most memorable songs outside the Disney Renaissance.
It eventually got a tv movie, Across the Second Dimension, that brilliantly expanded on the show’s formula with new directions and having a cinematic budget that could’ve secured a theatrical release. Now with the advent of Disney Plus, the creators have produced a new movie that might confuse fans on where in the timeline of the show it takes place. But other than that, it’s still a worthy addition to the series.
All the likeable characters have returned along with their excellent chemistry and voice acting, with new combinations to test their patience, skills, and ability to stay level headed in dangerous situations. The best pairing is between Isabella and Doofenshmirtz, contrasting their dexterity, ego, and age difference that solidifies who the leader of this ragtag space crew is. The only underutilized character is Perry the Platypus, who got a lot of development in the last movie, but is now relegated to just a few slapstick scenes. It’s funny and it brings back his classic confrontations with Doofenshmirtz, but it feels too formulaic compared to the other new character combinations: something the show didn’t explore too much when the simple formula didn’t need much tweaking.
The story is more heartfelt than funny (though granted it does have it share of laugh out loud scenes) by focusing on the relationship between Candance and her siblings, finally progressing what was one of the many running gags in the series. Thankfully it’s handled with a lot of care and surprisingly a lot of mature dignity. Once the space adventures starts, the creativity knows no limits when showcasing creatures from another planet, keeping you guessing on where the plot will go next, and whatever blueprints Phineas and Ferb have up their sleeve for any situation. The “sibling moments” might seem selfish at first, but the payoff at the end more than makes up for it. The songs have returned and they’re just as hypnotizing with how they’re utilized for comedy, drama, and progressing the story. The series was never a stranger with combining fantastical lyrics and crazy set pieces, and this knows how to continue that tradition. While it’s hard to stack this album up against the entire series, several numbers are clever in their placement in the story and execution.
The animation is a strong as ever knowing how to stage a million jokes a second ranging from slapstick, to witty dialogue, to fourth wall bulldozing (one particular sits alongside the creators’ other awards for self-referential cameos). The surreal designs carry over nicely to high definition and the scenery takes advantage of the widescreen ratio. This is the textbook example along side The Proud Family on how to take television animation and bring out the best in every single frame. The only downside is it doesn’t seem to have the semi-theatrical budget of Across the Second Dimension. For a movie like this it should’ve gone all out with a movie quality budget and animation, especially when you’re on Disney Plus that has a lot of resources at its disposal.
Other than that, Phineas and Ferb: Candace Against the Universe is another home run feature for the show. Everything that made the series a classic has returned in high definition from the hilarious and often heartfelt story, to the carefully calculated animation, to the offbeat character interactions, to the songs that could give Queen a run for its money. If you’re a fan of the show, check it out as it won’t cost you 30 dollars unlike other recent releases. As for newcomers, I’d say start with the show and Across the Second Dimension first, as this relies on your previous experience with the series in order to make the most of your emotional investment. But it’s definitely a perfect way to begin or end your summer.