Hey Arnold! The Movie
Football-headed hi-jinks
By Rachel Deahl

C'mon number 33. It's 2002: high-top fades are out.

Taking a look at the films lighting up the marquee recently, the recurring theme of big business wiping out the little guy seems to be on every moviemaker's mind. From Adam Sandler's ridiculous touch-up of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in Mr. Deeds to John Sayles' more somber tale of Florida real estate battles in Sunshine State, everyone's musing on the cruel hand of capitalism. And Nickelodeon's popular "football-headed" pint-sized hero, Arnold (of the network's TV show, Hey Arnold!) is no exception. In his feature length animated film, appropriately titled Hey Arnold! The Movie, the titular hero sets out to stop a multinational that's threatening to bulldoze his Manhattan block. With its light and overt overriding political themes, Hey Arnold! The Movie will amuse older kids (if only slightly) and younger alike.

When the ominous businessman Mr. Scheck (voiced by Paul Sorvino) announces his plans to erect a 21st century strip mall, called the "mall-plex," in the multi-block radius that is home to Arnold and his friends, the positive-thinking nine-year-old decides to take on "the man," as it were. But, after a failed block party, Arnold's support network quickly folds as his neighbors cave and sell their homes and businesses. Looking for another way to stop Scheck, Arnold's grandfather (who looks strikingly like an older version of Cletus The Slack-jawed Yokel from The Simpsons) unknowingly gives the boy an idea when he recounts the story of the famous "Tomato Incident." The "Incident" occurred on their block during Pre-Revolutionary times and involved a group of local townspeople who, refusing to pay a sudden tax-hike on tomatoes, halted the British from coming into their neighborhood by pelting them with the juicy vegetables. Realizing that their block is thereby a historical landmark, Arnold sets out to find the documentation that will surely spare their home from the wrecking ball. The quest takes Arnold and his best friend, Gerald, on a wild ride throughout Manhattan, leading them everywhere from the coroner (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) to a shapely weapons expert (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and finally straight into the heart of Scheck's headquarters.

Aside from a collection of amusing lines, Hey Arnold! The Movie has some cute plot devices as well, the best involving Arnold's secret admirer, a fellow nine-year-old named Helga (sporting an adorable unibrow), who poses as "Deep Voice" in order to save her beloved from the bulldozer. Not without its dark undertones too, the film dips into some Orwellian themes with its vision of the digital billboard that's placed above Arnold's neighborhood after Scheck buys the area. The billboard counts down the days to the demolition with the image of Scheck muttering the same line about change being positive and his company being the future. Of course the great irony is that this film owes more to the Schecks of the world than the Arnolds: it's produced by Nickelodeon which is a division of Viacom which is one of the largest entertainment conglomerates on the market.