Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel (2013)

Time for my first review, everybody! Let’s do this!

Phineas and Ferb premiered in 2007 on Disney channel and became one of the biggest TV shows they’ve had since Kim Possible.

The plot of each episode was pretty much the same. The titular stepbrothers would build crazy, unrealistic inventions to have the best day of summer ever. Their older sister Candace would go out of her way to “bust” the boys to their mom, but rarely achieves her goal, which drives her insane. Their pet platypus, Perry, leads a secret double life as a secret agent, fighting the incompetent Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, where their battles typically are what ghost away the boys’ inventions before their mom can see what they’re up to. Repetitive, sure, but it was a clever enough show that it used its repetitious nature to its advantage.

It was smart, funny, and even kind of touching at times. It was a great show. And since it aired while Disney was purchasing the rights to Marvel and Star Wars, co-creators Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (also voice of Major Monogram, Agent P’s boss) and Dan Povenmire (also the voice of Dr. Doofenshmirtz) were just geeky enough to ask Disney permission to use their new licensed rights to play with. Disney relented, and we got this as well as Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars. But I’ll look into that one later. So assemble, true believers! Let’s see how the daring dudes of Danville do up against the devious and diabolical doom mongers and Doofenshmirtz.

The plot: Phineas and Ferb, along with friends Buford, Baljeet, and Isabella, are having another awesome day in their homemade satellite in orbit. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s latest scheme involving his power-draininator causes the ray to repel off the boys’ satellite and accidentally suck the powers of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor in mid-battle. Nick Fury sends the heroes to go meet with the kids to find out what’s going on, but the villains Red Skull, Venom, Whiplash, and M.O.D.O.K. are empowered by this fortuitous turn of events. They seek out Doofenshmirtz and try to see if he’s genius he seems to be, but when it’s clear he isn’t, they cause mayhem in the local mall.

Agreeing to help the heroes gain their powers back, the kids rig a temporary fix to simulate their real powers, but Candace’s fangirl giddiness distracts them and they wind up with switched-up powers. Called to duty to stop the bad guys, the heroes try to do their best with what they have, but to little avail, even with Phineas and Ferb’s The Beak superhero suit from a previous canon episode. At the last second, they get rescued by a mysterious superhero platypus whom Spider-Man confuses for Howard the Duck (Hint: it’s not Howard the Duck). But disaster keeps persisting as Candace accidentally gets wimpy little Baljeet infused with gamma radiation, and creating “Hulkjeet”, leaving Candace to truly feel bad about her actions.

But the villains are done with Doof and threaten to take over Danville unless the heroes agree to face off downtown. Mostly powerless, the heroes reluctantly answer the call again. Will Phineas and Ferb set things right again? Will Candace right her wrongs? Will Hulkjeet face off against Thunderbolt Ross and Abomination? Will Doofenshmirtz regain his pride and credibility as an evil genius? And will Perry the Platypus face off against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War?

How’s the writing? In a word: great! I always loved that the quality of the writing for the characters remained consistent, even across various media, from the Epcot scavenger hunt game to the books. And this is probably why my two favorite Marvel superheroes, Wolverine and Captain America, weren’t available. Iron Man’s snark, Thor’s fish-out-of-water perspective, Spidey’s quips, and Hulk’s articulation worked brilliantly alongside Phineas and Ferb. Trying work in Cap or Logan probably wouldn’t have been nearly as funny. By contrast, only Red Skull and M.O.D.O.K. really work as comedic foils, where Whiplash and Venom kind of fade into the background. The only other Marvel alum to make mention is Nick Fury, whose incredulous reactions to Monogram’s transparent attempts to one-up Fury are the stuff of comedy gold.

What makes most of this work is their homage to Marvel and its quirks. It’s easy to mock the costumes and gimmicks of superheroes, but it’s another to really delve into what makes these specific heroes unique. It’s not just Spidey referring to his costume as a body stocking, it’s using Red Skull’s German roots to be pitted against Doof’s Bavarian-inspired Drusselstiniean heritage. It’s Thor trying to explain that his powers work based on worthiness rather than Iron Man’s insistence on power. It’s having Stan Lee as the hot dog vendor and a brief narrator halfway through the special. It’s Candace being a fangirl. It’s Isabella expressing that no superheroines showed up. It’s Iron Man offering a Stark Industries internship to the boys.

Only once does a line not work. After Hulkjeet goes on a rampage, Phineas gets angry at Candace (One of the very few times in the series he’s ever been so.), and Buford utters the classic line, “I told her not to make Phineas angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.” A nice reference, if too strongly shoehorned. Overall, a solid 9.5/10.

Who made it worth it? The cast of Phineas and Ferb are several levels of solid here. All are in character, on point, and exemplary. That’s no surprise. Once again, though, I have to give high marks to the voice actors who breathed life and soul into the Marvel characters. Personalities who could very easily look and act out of place in a kid’s cartoon. Spider-Man, voiced by Drake Bell, keeps the one-liners coming in true Spidey fashion, for example. And Iron Man keeps the snark, even though he never lifts his face plate.

Ultimately, it’s Fred Tatasciore’s Hulk that makes this movie so cool. Unlike his other portrayals, Hulk isn’t just a brooding, monosyllabic Goliath with breathtaking anger management issues. He’s just another guy who is just as articulate and introspective as anyone else on the team. He confesses to feeling “entrepreneurial” when he gets Iron Man’s powers, and how he says goodbye to Baljeet may feel a bit out of character, it’s so cute you hardly care.

Does it give the feels? I always liked how the show never felt more than a passing, frenetic bout of action yet still had relatable, endearing characters. Action is fine, but without characters to relate to, the premise would fall apart. When the show would have its movie and extended special episodes, we would see just how deep the characters could feel. Unfortunately, this show isn’t the best example of that.

When all seems lost for the heroes and Candace creates Hulkjeet, Phineas’ anger seems shocking, and even if it’s not unwarranted, it feels uneasy. Phineas is almost unabashedly optimistic, so it feels harsh, yet at the same time, almost unearned.

Candace gets saddened at letting down her brothers (Ferb, as per usual, is pretty silent on the matter), and is joined by Isabella, who feels equally ostracized. Why? Well, both sing a duet called, “Only Trying to Help”, about wanting to help out but feeling unwelcome. This might have worked, but Isabella was right there helping them the entire time! You could make the argument that it was spurred by Buford’s dismissive misogynistic remarks, but her portions of the songs are directed at Phineas, not Buford! So what’s the deal?

If you’re looking for feels in Phineas and Ferb, I suggest watching the episode “Come Home Perry”, or the movie “Across the 2nd Dimension”. But as much as I like this movie, this isn’t it.

The best quality provided: You like dead horses? Because it’s the writing again. Yeah, I know, but I call a spade a spade. The writing is just that good.

What could have been improved: Like a lot of shows, Phineas and Ferb is two 11-minute segments in a half hour block, and are used to all sorts of crazy dynamics in a short span of time. That’s part of the show’s strength. But this led to the final action sequence between the real heroes and villains seem a little too silly. Compare the battle for New York in The Avengers to this one and you’ll feel the difference. It’s the one place where the two properties didn’t mesh well, and it would be excusable if it weren’t the main thing superheroes do.

Both Buford’s line about Phineas’ anger and Isabella’s sadness are a little distracting, but they are hiccups compared to the humor, the slapstick, the homage to Marvel’s legendary heroes, and above all, seeing to that the characters from both properties are treated with respect and dignity, even if Hulk covers himself in pots and pans to emulate Iron Man.

Verdict: This special is definitely geared toward Phineas and Ferb fans, but it throws enough of a bone to the comic book nerds to feel genuine, even if seeing M.O.D.O.K. reduced to a punchline or Red Skull in a ball pit seems a bit too silly. There’s some sincere love presented here, and it isn’t unnoticed, even as they try to adapt these guys to a kid’s show. I give it nine Agent P fedoras out of ten.

So that’s my first review! What would you like me to review next? I’m TAP-G, and I know what I’m gonna do today, Ferb!

Get some shawarma.

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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