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Phineas and Ferb: The Movie - Across the 2nd Dimension DVD + Digital Copy Review

Phineas and Ferb: The Movie - Across the 2nd Dimension DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Phineas and Ferb: The Movie - Across the 2nd Dimension
Movie & DVD Details

Directors: Dan Povenmire, Robert F. Hughes / Writers: Jon Colton Barry, Dan Povenmire, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh

Cast: Vincent Martella (Phineas), Ashley Tisdale (Candace), Thomas Sangster (Ferb), Carolina Rhea (Mom), Richard O'Brien (Dad), Dan Povenmire (Dr. Doofenshmirtz), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Major Monogram), Alyson Stoner (Isabella), Maulik Pancholy (Baljeet), Bobby Gaylor (Buford), Mitchel Musso (Jeremy), Tyler Mann (Carl), Dee Bradley Baker (Perry), Kelly Hu (Stacy), Olivia Olson (Vanessa), John Viener (Norm), Jack McBrayer (Irving)

Songs: "Everything's Better with Perry," "Brand New Best Friend," "Summer (Where Do We Begin?)," "I Walk Away," "Brand New Reality," "Takin' Care of Things"

Original Air Date: August 5, 2011 / Running Time: 77 Minutes / Rating: TV-G

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hi-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 23, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM) / Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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By Aaron Wallace

It's hard to believe that just five years ago, I was watching Disney Channel on a regular basis. These days, I'd struggle to tell you which shows it's even airing.
There is, however, one newer series I've been keenly aware of.

While I hadn't yet seen "Phineas and Ferb", its fans kept insisting it was worth my attention. That's why I eagerly signed up to review the series' first feature-length spin-off, Phineas and Ferb: The Movie - Across the 2nd Dimension.

For the uninitiated among us, the movie sets out the series' basic premise with dispatch. Phineas and Ferb are step-brothers of the fairly normal variety, quirky and crafty perhaps, but also cool. Their older sister Candace is naturally annoyed by them and absolutely obsessed with "busting" their shenanigans. Little do any of them know that the family pet, a platypus named Perry, is actually a secret agent in disguise. He's on a mission to thwart the power-hungry ambitions of the hilariously incompetent and mostly benign scientist, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz.

Phineas and Ferb don't just travel across the 2nd Dimension, but also time, as evidenced by those Travolta-esque outfits! Dr. Doofenshmirtz's grand plan for his portal to another reality? Furniture shopping!

In this latest adventure, the boys unwittingly help Doofenshmirtz open a portal to an alternate dimension, where they each have off-kilter counterparts. Doof's is a much more successful version of himself, having effectively risen to power over his tri-state area. Phineas and Ferb find themselves trapped in the inverse realm and have to team up with their alternate family to set things right, discovering hidden truths about Perry along the way.

The first half of the movie is better than the second. It's in the latter portion that the screenplay, perhaps having too much time on its hands, stumbles into overblown, Saturday morning action cartoon territory. Fortunately, that's not the aspect of Phineas and Ferb that stands out in the final judgment.

The movie (and presumably the show) is delivered with a sophisticated sense of humor that raises the bar for kid-friendly cable animation. Laced with puns, pop culture references, and dry humor that occasionally requires a moment of reflection to appreciate, the writing happily sets it sights higher than broad, base-level gags.

Perry's even more intimidating as Robo-Perry the Platy-bot! Phineas and Ferb's sister, Candace, is definitely channeling Judy Funnie in this alternative universe.

This is the kind of intelligent silliness that marks the music of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Likewise, the culturally enlightened asides bring "The Simpsons" to mind, and there's also the wry wackiness of something like "30 Rock," only family-friendlier. When Doof doubles his evil plan, for example, he exclaims, "Pretty soon, I'll be ruling over two tri-state areas... a virtual six-state area!" (Insert evil laugh here.)
Having fun with language and personality, the creators have concocted a tasty and fresh flavor for these appealing characters.

Across the 2nd Dimension premiered on Disney Channel on August 5, 2011, having been made available on demand to various service providers just four days prior. It later separately debuted on Disney's other networks (Disney XD on August 13, Disney Cruise Line on August 18, and ABC on August 20) before finally taking a lightning-fast track to home video for an August 23rd DVD release. The 2-disc DVD set, unofficially billed a "Fan Pack," contains a few unexpected surprises detailed below.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with generally great picture quality. Black lines, such as those defining the characters' arms, clothes, and eyes, often blur when in motion. Compression shouldn't be a concern here and there are no other signs of it, so I assume this is either an intentional or incidental byproduct of the animation method. Colors are vibrant and the visuals are otherwise pleasing.

Audio comes by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track (available in English, Spanish, or French), which produces sufficient and very clear sound. The front channels definitely predominate but there's enough rear reinforcement for you to know it's there. Bass levels, however, are on the low end.

Perry shakes his tail feather as you sing along to "Robot Riot" or any other song in the Perry-oke-equipped Dr. D's Jukebox-Inator feature. Honey, We Blew Up Our Sis

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The first two bonus features are really just different means of interacting with the movie's music.
"Perry-oke" plays the film in full, lyrics and a bouncing Perry appearing on-screen each time a song comes on. "Dr. D's Jukebox-Inator" simply cuts directly to the song of your choosing (with optional Perry-oke) before returning to the jukebox screen. Calling either of these a "feature" is a stretch, but since the movie's songs are as clever and enjoyable as the characters are, highlighting them in this way seems appropriate.

Next up is a complete episode from the show (well, a complete twelve-minute episode, which would have aired as half of a half-hour block), presented in widescreen. "Attack of the 50-Foot Sister" (12:17) originally aired on February 21, 2009 on Disney XD and then May 1, 2009 on Disney Channel, and it makes its DVD debut here. In it, sister Candace swipes a growing potion from Phineas and Ferb, accidentally engorging her facial features. This confirmed my suspicion that the show is probably more fun in episodic form than as a movie.

"Attack of the 50-Foot Sister" also comes with an optional audio commentary by series creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, along with writer Jon Colton Barry. In the very short time they're together, the trio makes some episode-specific observations before meandering off-topic, pausing for some lulls, and finally reflecting on how their show stands apart from others of its ilk.

It's pretty remarkable that a TV movie on DVD would be accompanied by an episode with a commentary track, and those are definitely the disc's noteworthiest supplements. Far less impressive are Disney's now-ubiquitous promos: "Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa" (4:23) and "Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go" (1:02).

Easter Eggs: There are several; if you'd prefer to find them yourself, skip to the next section now. The main menu screen is filled with rather obvious items that, when selected, activate hidden features. Most of them are short, in-menu gags, while one briefly shows an animator digitally sketching Phineas.

Most notably, one of these objects transforms the main menu screen into Doof's Alternate Universe, where a whole second array of Easter Egg gags is available. There's an extra Bonus Features menu too, revealing a special audio commentary for "Attack of the 50-Foot Sister," performed in character by Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Major Monogram. The track sounds to be mostly improvised and is both funny and impressive. Finally, you'll find a gallery of eight deleted scenes (running 7:11 in total), including an entire new musical sequence, "Mysterious Force" (also accessible via "Dr. D's Jukebox-Inator").

Look closely or you'll miss this quick, unadvertised look at an animator drawing on his computer screen! Just one of two main menu screens you might find on the "Phineas and Ferb: The Movie" DVD

The 16x9 main menu screen is bustling with animation while a music loop plays. Sub-menus are static but also accompanied by score.

Notably, the disc is not equipped with Disney's FastPlay (that's a good thing). A Sneak Peeks reel (4:20) plays automatically on start-up, featuring: The Lion King: Diamond Edition, Brave, Prom, and Disney Movie Rewards. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing repeats that same reel, following it up with several other previews, advertising "Fish Hooks" on Disney Channel, "TRON: Uprising" on Disney XD, the video game inspired by this Phineas and Ferb movie (available on various formats), Bambi II: Special Edition, and Cars 2 on home video.

The plain gray disc is housed in a blue standard DVD keepcase with a glossy, embossed slipcover repeating the cover art around it. Inside the case, one finds a Disney Movie Rewards code, a light ads pamphlet, and a small "build your own Platypult" kit (nothing grand, but probably fun for kids).

A second disc, bearing a more colorful label, contains both a digital copy of the movie and an eight-track song sampler with music from the movie. To get the songs, you'll need to initially launch the Digital Copy transfer from the disc itself (not via iTunes). The files then transfer to your computer's music library. The songs included are "Everything's Better with Perry", "Brand New Best Friend", "Summer (Where Do We Begin?)", "I Walk Away", "Brand New Reality", "Takin' Care of Things", "Robot Riot", and "Mysterious Force". This effectively means that the DVD includes a complimentary complete digital soundtrack. (Note: An actual soundtrack album was released to retail on August 2, 2011, featuring these songs plus music from the show. Wal-Mart also carries its own exclusive version with ten additional tracks. "I Walk Away" is currently exclusive to this "Fan Pack" Digital Copy DVD.)

At long last, Dr. Doofenshmirtz finds a best friend... himself!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Across the 2nd Dimension doesn't exactly reinvent the Disney Channel wheel, but it's charming and genuinely funny enough to bring me on board with "Phineas and Ferb." The movie gets bogged down in battle and chase sequences, but it's still easy to find ample appeal in it. Making a recommendation even easier is the fact that this "Fan Pack" DVD includes a complimentary digital soundtrack, a bonus episode (complete with audio commentary), and a menu design that exhibits far more effort than most.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the Soundtrack: MP3, CD

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Reviewed September 1, 2011.