Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011)

I started this blog in 2018 with my review of Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel.  The show was one of my favorites for some time and still is, though I haven’t watched it in some time, despite its availability on Disney+.  And speaking of Disney+…

Candace party!  Candace party!

Yeah, the boys of Danville are back.  Candace is whisked away to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, and it’s up to her prepubescent brothers, their friends, and a certain evil scientist to go save her.  It’s been five years since the series ended and nine years since their first major cinematic outing.  Sure, the boys teamed up with the Avengers and also fan fictioned themselves into the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.  But their first true break into movie-length adventures was this action-packed extravaganza.

Ferb, I know what I’m gonna do today.

The Plot: Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) are celebrating the adoption day of their beloved pet platypus, Perry (Dee Bradley Baker).  They build platypus badminton catapults where they ride in the shuttlecock, but an accident causes their trajectory to crash right into Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s (Dan Povenmire) penthouse.  Doof was set for the usual spar with Perry in setting up his Other-Dimension-inator, which the boys wrecked.  Empathetic and helpful, the boys fix the machine, just as Perry (in his super-secret secret agent guise as Agent P) arrives.  Despite his best attempts to stop them, the device works, and all four step into a parallel dimension where a more competent and evil Doof has taken over the world in a totalitarian dictatorship.

Doof 2 spills the beans about Perry’s secret identity, which is grounds for Perry to be transferred to another family, and sends his own Perry – who was turned into an evil cyborg – after them.  The boys escape and upon finding out they can’t go home, they seek out their doppelgangers to help them out.  There are many surprising twists, but chief among them is their sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale) is the leader of the anti-Doof resistance.

Meanwhile, on Earth 1, Candace is stressing about retaining her childlike habits and is determined to be more mature and responsible in looking after her brothers, rather than just tattling on them to her mom.  Imagine her stress when she hops over to the second dimension.  And Doof 1 is trying to be besties with the clearly-not-impressed Doof 2.

How’s the writing?: Was that a lot?  Because it felt like a lot.  But it’s surprisingly digestible.

As per usual, the film doesn’t really stray from the standard premise of each episode: the boys are ready to have the best day ever, Doofenshmirtz is ready to take over the Tri-State Area, and Candace is locked on her latest obsession while trying to bust her brothers.  But all it takes is for Perry’s rocket car to bump Phineas and Ferb’s shuttlecock off-course to set the cartoon in a wildly new direction than usual.  The cartoon cleverly takes several meta jabs at the show’s predictable nature, from Phineas noticing the Other-Dimension-inator is rigged through a self-destruct button to Doof’s inability to recognize that Perry and Agent P are the same person.  It’s not mean-spirited or snarky, it’s just…funny.

The nature of the show has always been unapologetically fast-paced, allowing gags to come and go so rapidly they don’t hinder the plot, but provide a great chuckle in just how well-executed it is.

Does it give the feels?: The show rarely hit emotional moments simply because the nature of it was wit and action.  Each half hour episode was made of two eleven minute stories, which had to spin three narratives into one cohesive plot.  But once the story introduces stakes and an emotional core, it hits.

Perry, despite usually being treated as a segue and often forgotten about in the series, truly loves the boys and wants no harm to come to them.  He knows exposing his secret identity has serious ramifications and he goes through great lengths to avoid doing so until the boys are threatened with harm.  There’s even a somber moment during the second act where Perry is urged to turn himself in or Phineas and Ferb are put I  the crosshairs again.  Perry starts to leave, which Phineas reads as him abandoning them again, and he sends him away.  It’s a truly sad moment for the character.

My favorite moment was during the film’s climax, where upon return to their dimension, Doof 2’s Norm-Bots follow them and set out to take over.  Perry hands the boys his collar (which houses their baby photos) and leaves.  The boys figure out the collar is an access key to his lair, and Perry has scanned all…ALL…of Phineas and Ferb’s inventions since day one of summer.  They were machines of recreation, mind you: giant robot dog, massive head of robot cattle, giant tops, the Beak superhero suit, robot treehouses, the Phinedroids and Ferbots, shark submarine, even the roller coaster, but they are all instantly replicated and intended to be used as weapons helmed by the kid’s friends against the incursion.  It was pure fan service, but it was awesome.

Who makes it worth it?: What I find absolutely fascinating is that show creators Povenmire and Dan “Swampy” Marsh seem to have a tight finger on the pulse of their show and all its spinoffs.  Back when they had the Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure at Epcot to the books, I marveled at how the comedy and wit never wavered in quality.  And most importantly, the characters never acted out of character.

Doofenshmirtz has always been a hilarious and somewhat complicated character.  He thinks he’s evil and diabolical, but it’s only when he’s enacting his schemes.  He has a genial rapport with Phineas and Ferb right away and accepts their help without a cross word.  He’s slow on the uptake, sure, but he’s not stupid.  He even is awestruck at the idea of taking over the world like his counterpart, which even he views as both awesome and kind of nuts.  It’s kind of a treat to see a Doof who’s capable of such maliciousness (And can see through Perry’s disguise for one!) work alongside our loveable, less capable Doof.

The two have a song called “Brand New Best friend” where they parody all sorts of famous duos like Laurel and Hardy, Starsky and Hutch, Simon and Garfunkel, Jake and Elwood, Hope and Crosby, Lucy and Ethel, and you know…all the greatest pairings that kids watching will TOTALLY understand.  Still, you see the beginnings of their relationship start to crumble at the end, and you see exactly where it’s headed.

Best quality provided: You may love the tunes from A Goofy Movie.  You might say The Lion King music defined your childhood.  Maybe you have the La Vida Mickey album downloaded still from your ska period.  Whatever, I don’t judge.  But for me, Phineas and Ferb had one of the best soundtracks ever written and I will fight anyone on this.

I don’t know how Povenmire and Marsh pulled it off, but the show had some insanely catchy songs in a wide myriad of genres.  This movie is no exception.  “Everything’s better with Perry” is a mellow and fluid intro to the boys and their pet with a 70’s influence that even goes so far as to add the platypus’ scientific name, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, into the lyrics.  “Takin’ Care of Things” is a nice energetic yet sentimental sendoff in the end credits.  “Brand New Reality” is wacky and melodic.  “Brand New Best Friend is Hilarious”.  “Robot Riot” sung by fictional band Love Händel/actual band and theme song (and hit single 1985) musicians Bowling for Soup is all heavy action rock awesomeness. Both “Mysterious Force” and “Kick it up a Notch” aren’t in the film proper, but they’re great additions (Plus the latter has guitar arrangements by freaking Slash from Guns and Roses!).  But bar none, the absolute best tune is “Summer (Where do we begin?)”, and you can tell this is where the writers put their heart and soul into it.

See, the show was always a fond homage to the halcyon days of summer, but never nostalgic.  True, Phineas and Ferb directly set out to make every day the best day ever with wild inventions and refused to spend it watching TV, but you never got a sense that Povenmire and Marsh are trying to tell its audiences summers are about catching fireflies or wading in brooks or whatever boomers did back then.  This song does evoke some characteristically powerful imagery that does remind me of those days gone by, plus they momentarily inject the show’s theme into the bridge.  It’s a brilliant song.

What could have been improved: Despite this being Phineas and Ferb‘s first feature-length adventure, it’s not recommended for those uninitiated with the series.

For example, Candace’s relationship with Jeremy as a cute teenage puppy love that evolved into a deeper mutual development is something significant in the show’s canon.  By Candace’s first scene, she’s already so bowled over by Jeremy being older and headed to college that her it throws her into a pre-meltdown.  It’s typical of Candace, who goes headlong into these obsessions over Jeremy, and it makes sense to fans, who watched her titter awkwardly in his face when he’d greet her.

The opening scene is the “third act flash forward” trope made exclusively for fans, especially those thrown off why Phineas, Ferb, Doof, Candace, and Agent P are chained together.  But the biggest question mark might be the Goozim, the giant, hairy, brown monster in the cage.  This beast is a callback to season one, episode 35 episode “Got Game?”, where Doof played the game Poke the Goozim with a Stick as a boy in Gimmelshtump.  At least with the presence of lawn gnomes, that was a more established running gag from episode 2 of the same season. Say nothing of the Giant Floating Baby Head and Zebra during the “Brand New Reality” sequence.  I guess it’s not the biggest deal breaker, but I’d get your friends up to speed first before flipping this on.

My only other complaint is the movie’s abrupt ending.  It just kind of feels a bit rushed.

Verdict: I love the show and it still remains one of my favorites to this day.  I respect the hell out of this movie for being lively and engaging for kids, filled with references for adults, wacky and silly for the lower common denominator, yet smart enough to invoke Georgia O’Keefe, Kirkegaard, and Red Dawn references.  Great music, hilarious jokes, and some genuine emotion make this a great watch.  Nine missing choo-choos out of ten.

Now go to bed!

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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