Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!
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As you know from my reviews old and new, I am a supporter of both original properties and shows and films based on some pre-existing property. My rule of thumb is that whether it’s original or pre-existing, it all comes down to execution. How many times have we seen original ideas flop or pre-existing IPs knock it out of the park and vice versa? Well, many times. That’s why I roll my eyes a little when I see people be in the mindset of “original ideas or nothing at all.” Listen, I want as many original ideas to flourish as possible, but that also means that if you want to see them flourish, that means you accept them warts and all. That is unless they are a hateful problematic piece of garbage or made by a troubling individual. I can’t repeat this enough that you need to support the original ideas. You watch them when they arrive, and you spend some time talking about them more than the pre-existing films and shows. The reason why I bring that up is that today’s review will be of Arlo The Alligator Boy on Netflix.
Directed by Ryan Crego, this 2D animated original property is Ryan Crego’s first time in the feature film chair, and was an out of nowhere announcement from Netflix. It simply came out of nowhere, and due to Netflix doing what Netflix does, they also have a sequel TV series in the works that will be coming out sometime after the film. It has some big names like American Idol finalist Michael J. Woodard, Mary Lambert, Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Flea, Annie Potts, Jennifer Coolidge, and Vincent Rodriguez III. It also has music by Alex Geringas and Ryan Crego himself. It was produced by both Titmouse, Inc and Netflix Animation. It’s obvious that Netflix, for all of their warts and problems as a service, wants to do animation that no one else is doing, and well, Arlo is one of those projects you wouldn’t normally see in the US. It would be just another day that ends in Y if this was from France or so, but a fresh-made 2D animated feature from the US that’s not some DC comics direct-to-video film? It’s rarer than you think. That’s why despite the few faults I have with it, I liked the film and think everyone should support it! Let’s dive in and see why I think you should support this film.
The story is about a young alligator boy named Arlo, voiced by Michael J Woodard. He lives with his adopted grandma in the swamps. He has a love for music and a fascination with the outside world. One day, he learns that he is not from the swamp, but has a father and is from New York City. He sets off on an adventure to find his father and a journey of self-discovery. Arlo is then joined by a woman named Bertie, voiced by Mary Lambert, a tiny individual named Teeny Tiny Tony, voiced by Tony Hale, a catgirl named Alia, voiced by Haley Tju, a hairy creature named Furlecia, voiced by Jonathan Van Ness, and a fish-man named Marcellus, voiced by Brett Gelman. Can Arlo find his real father and avoid the grasp of some hillbilly hunters voiced by Jennifer Coolidge and Flea?
So, what do I love about this movie? Well, I love its animation. This is some of the most entertaining 2D animation I have seen for some time. It’s fluid, bouncy, it squishes, it squashes, it stretches, and you get the idea. It takes all of the elements that make great cartoony 2D animation and puts it through the wringer. It’s at the very least some of the most fun animation I have seen, and I can see this film being used for classes in animation and character movements. It checks off a lot of boxes with those two elements. It might take a little more from more recent animation trends, but it has plenty of theatrical and artful elements, and boy when the musical numbers kick in, the animation gets even better. The colors, the designs, the lighting, and so on, it’s all straight As across the board.
In terms of themes, Arlo‘s biggest one is finding your place in the world. It’s sprinkled with other themes like abandonment, father and son bonds, discrimination, and self-love. What helps carry these themes is a fairly strong cast of characters. Arlo is a ball of joy and optimism and it never gets too annoying. I think it’s refreshing to see a lead character in something that’s not so teeth-grindingly defeatist and cynical. The other main characters are also good at bouncing off of one another, and they make for an enjoyable band of goofy individuals. I think some get a little more development than others, but due to the fact there is a TV series coming out, I’m sure it’s going to expand upon them there. Even the hillbilly hunters have a few funny lines. The music is also incredible. The background tunes are great, and the original songs are real knee slappers. They are easily some of the catchiest tunes you will find in a more recent musical. It’s also, simply put, nice to see Netflix make an honest-to-goodness animated musical. I know they have more than this one, but with some of their films, their musical song always seems like it’s there for a Best Original Song nominee and they don’t always fit the films they are in. Every song in Arlo though? They fit and are major parts of the story.
Sadly, it’s time to get down and talk about my criticisms of this film. First up on the docket, I find some of the characters lack development or purpose behind the plot. Like Marcellus doesn’t do a whole lot once he is introduced. I’m sure they will have more time in the TV show to be fleshed out, but since that’s not out yet, there isn’t a whole lot to some of the main cast. I also found the third act to be a little clunky in its execution. It still has some really strong moments and the themes of finding yourself and the battle against changing who you are to be accepted is great! It has plenty of striking visuals, touching moments, and great surreal jokes, but the transition of when Arlo finally gets to New York doesn’t feel as flowing as the previous two thirds. Now then, let’s move on to the villains or I guess obstacles would be more fitting. The hillbilly hunters do not do a lot in the film outside of the first and third act, and by the end of it, they were more like challenges that got in the way and an igniting point at the end for Arlo, but they could have been handled better. The way they wrap up their arc is a touch underwhelming, and some things about them are not explained well. Or at least, I didn’t find them explained well. Their final scene is funny, and maybe they will do more in the TV series, even though if we go by what happens in the end, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, but we will have to see where the show goes in terms of story.
While the third act might stumble a little, I still enjoyed my time with Arlo the Alligator Boy. It has incredibly vibrant animation, catchy songs, likable characters, it has fun offbeat humor, a distinct personality, and is an original IP from the ground up. It’s also a super sweet and earnest film that I think everyone will love watching. It comes out on April 16th, and if you love original 2D animated films, this is one of this year’s best. Well, now it’s time to dive back into the pool of screeners! Again, I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it is, but I think you will dig what I’m going to be talking about next.
Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!
Rating: Go See It!