Phineas and Ferb started in 2007, and it quickly became that generation’s Rugrats or Doug. With two scientific kid stepbrothers at the helm the antics practically wrote themselves, as showrunners Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh had ages of practice creating cartoon worlds. It was authentic, wholesome and fun. The newest film in the series is more of the same.
As a bit of background, the show primarily takes place within the confines of a single summer: involving the titular Phineas and Ferb’s over-the-top creations, crafted in an effort to stave off having a boring mid-year holiday. Their older sister, Candace, in the midst of finding herself and her place in the world, doesn’t like that her brothers seemingly get away with everything; and are never held accountable for whatever collateral damage they may cause.
That emotional crux of Candace is the heart of the film, and it mostly works. Nearing the end of the summer (Candace Against the Universe takes place right before the finale), Candace is still lost emotionally, and is ready to “bust” her brothers for being secret mad scientists once and for all. Or at least she was, until she was abducted by aliens who deem her “The Chosen One.”
Here we immediately begin the dance of trying to incorporate the main crew (Phineas and Ferb and their friends) as they attempt to travel to an alien world to save her: as well as the personal journey of Candace, that’s mostly isolated from the rest of the narrative. What ends up playing out is a series of skits in spots until the cast can actually meet up, followed by a brief interlude, a separation and more skits.
As a film, it doesn’t always work. Candace Against the Universe is funny and even legitimately emotional at points, but the hour and a half runtime sometimes feels like a segmented mini-series that fails to hold our attention during short stretches. With that in mind, it’s a good collective of episodes in that case, and five years after the series ended for good, it proves that the creators have still got it. Ashley Tisdale is a standout for sure, as she carries the weight of the film on her shoulders with her erratic performance juxtaposed to a somewhat bloated cast.
If you even remotely loved Phineas and Ferb at any point in your life, Candace Against the Universe won’t be the perfect button for the series, but it’s heartfelt and fun to watch. In other words: a great way to spend an afternoon on a lazy summer day.