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Archive for Friday, December 8, 2006

Cartoons new, old, beloved

December 8, 2006

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The original TV movie "Re-Animated" (7 p.m., Cartoon Network) offers a hyperactive combination of animation and real action, and a plot that sends up the history and legends of the cartoon industry.

Jimmy (Dominic Janes) is your average seventh-grader with an unusual family. His father gobbles sugary cereals, watches cartoons and has the attention span of a Labrador retriever. He's also the vice principal of Jimmy's school. Jimmy's mom is an astronaut, always on her way to and from deep space. And his adopted sister is a green alien with antennae and special powers.

"Re-Animated" really gets interesting when Jimmy's seventh-grade class goes on a field trip to a cartoon theme park. After Jimmy is struck by a miniature locomotive, he is saved by an emergency brain transplant performed by a team of surgeons dressed as cartoon characters. Luckily for Jimmy, the folks at Golly World have kept the frozen brain of the company's dead founder, Milt Appleday (portrayed by Fred Willard in animatronic form) on ice for 30 years. With Appleday's brain implanted in his head, Jimmy can suddenly "see" and converse with all of the vintage cartoon characters. And they seem eager to be seen, having saved up their conversation since 1977.

You'd think a story this weird and complicated would be enough for any movie, but "Re-Animated" keeps shoveling on the subplots. Milt's estranged son, Sonny (Matt Knudsen), seems eager to get his evil hands on dad's brain. The Appleday board appoints Jimmy president of the company. And somewhere along the line, Jimmy grows estranged from his best pal, another seventh-grade outcast. And there's a love interest, too!

It's fun to see the Cartoon Network, a corporate descendant of Warner Bros. Cartoons, taking such a cheeky and savage poke at Disney history. After all, Warner Bros. and Disney have been animation rivals since the 1930s, with smart-alecky Warner Bros. lampooning Walt Disney's "artistic" projects. "Re-Animated" also pokes fun at contemporary Disney Channel fare - sunny, shiny fantasies set in the cutthroat corridors of junior high.

In the end, "Re-Animated" is probably too cynical and complicated for kids and too loud and juvenile for adults. For all of its ambitions to be smart, knowing, silly and cartoon-savvy, it fails to do what the "Simpsons" does each and every week.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Jimmy Durante narrates the 1969 cartoon "Frosty the Snowman" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ A blackballed mobster (Vincent Pastore, "The Sopranos") wants to hold his daughter's wedding at the casino on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC). Wayne Newton guest stars.

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