Growing up in the 1990s meant watching hours of cartoons and playing outside. The age old question of that generation has always been, “Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network?” As a child, I was always partial to the era of Nickelodeon. So many iconic shows came from one network. The likes of Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, The Wild Thornberries, All That, SpongeBob SquarePants and more. The network helped to launch the careers of Kenan Thompson, Melissa Joan Hart, Amanda Bynes, Drake Bell and Josh Peck – just to name a few. Though, as an adult now, I have to admit some of those shows are better left to nostalgia than they are to the actual re-watch. On the other hand, as I’ve aged, I found a new appreciation for certain properties that I didn’t have when I was a kid.
Rocko’s Modern Life will always be one of the those shows. Rocko was a show I liked as a child but never something that grew to love the vein that I did with Rugrats. As an adult now, I have deeper fondness of the humor that the show created, its absolute randomness and honest depth and reliability. Almost as if Joe Murray, the show’s creator, crafted an adult show in the guise of a children’s show. Rocko ran from 1993 to 1996. It was one of the earlier Nicktoons of its’ kind and also helped launch the career of Stephen Hillenburg in the process. For years, as a culture, we’ve been in this wave of nostalgia to revisit our childhood. Nickelodeon jumped on that wagon super hard and then faded. Within a year span, Nickelodeon had announced a Nicktoon Universe movie, Hey Arnold: the Jungle Movie¸ and updated Double Dare, an Invader Zim movie. Not to mention a Legends of the Hidden Temple reboot, the upcoming Are You Afraid of the Dark? Reboot and this apparent live-action and cartoon hybrid of the Rugrats. For years, fans have been waiting for their own Rocko’s Modern Life movie in Static Cling. The project was announced, with trailer, at SDCC a few years ago and is finally here. Though is it worth the wait?
Static Cling picks up where the series left off, blasting our fan favorite characters into space where they’ve been orbiting for the last 20 years. Upon returning home, the trio in Rocko, Heifer and Filburt discover the madness that is the 21st century. This return feels more like a montage of 90s characters in our modern world than it does actual storytelling. The 90s in and of themselves were a crazy time but what if that was all you knew? Now we live in an age of a constant evolution in technology, social media, energy drinks and superhero movies. In that aspect, Static, is extremely meta and really well crafted. Though this portion of the film seems to take a bit too long. It’s smart yet quick paced. Something that could turn viewers off.
Upon crashing home, we get to also experience what depression looks like with our characters. Told though Rocko, in search of his favorite TV show & getting it back on the air – the depression factor only adds to the layer of meta brilliance Murray crafts within the short duration of this movie. It’s amazing that as we evolve into more technological society, the more isolated it can feel to certain individuals. Thus creating depression and Static Cling brilliantly tackles such issues flawlessly. However, depression isn’t the only big issue its’ tackling. The creator behind the Fatheads, the show which Rocko is trying to resurrect, leaves home to find himself. In this character’s journey we are opened up to themes of identity – as told through the lens of a transgender individual. It’s a surprisingly deep arc for such a character and one that many viewers can relate to. Proving that Rocko’s Modern Life can be more than just toilet jokes and seriously bring depth to its’ narrative.
Overall, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, is an absolute feat for the fan favorite. The film comes alive with its’ signature bright colors as it modernly boasts beautiful animation. The film feels like a perfect companion for the series. It’s a funny, witty and a meta experience. Static Cling is bold and fearless in its’ delivery tackling themes of depression, sexual identity and acceptance. Throughout its short runtime, the film is brilliantly equipped with humor and a surprisingly layer of depth and heart. The first act moves a bit faster than the rest of the film but it only adds to sheer brilliance Joe Murray crafts in such a short time.
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Credits: Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling is property of Netflix and Nickelodeon. We do not own nor claim any rights. Music by Beggars.