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What parents need to know
Families need to know that Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling is a special that brings back the characters from the classic '90s Nicktoon. Rocko (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) and his friends Heffer (Tom Kenny) and Filburt (Mr. Lawrence) have been stuck in space for 20 years, and when they finally return home, lots has changed. Expect plenty of gross-out humor; for example, Heffer finds a TV remote in his butt, a nose-picking executive loses everything but his booger jar (which he fills repeatedly), and there's lots of farting. If you forgot how edgy Rocko's world is, Static Cling brings you back very quickly: The Fatheads (a show within the show) are like if The Simpsons' Itchy and Scratchy were a married couple -- there's lots of cartoonish violence, arguing, and explosions. There are also some fat jokes and arguing between Heffer and Filburt. That said, positive messages abound about accepting change and loving unconditionally, primarily explored through a transgender main character's transition from male to female. It's lots of fun; just be sure your family is familiar with the Rocko vibe before you dive back in.
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What's the story?
In ROCKO's MODERN LIFE: STATIC CLING, all that Rocko (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) and his friends have for entertainment while trapped in space is a lone VHS box set; luckily, it's their favorite show, The Fatheads, a Honeymooners-type show created by their neighbor's son, Ralph Bighead, and based on his parents. Once the crew returns to O-Town, Rocko, Heffer (Tom Kenny), and Filburt (Mr. Lawrence) are excited to reap the benefits of modern culture, including getting buzzed on Buzzbucks coffee, buying the latest versions of the O-Phone, and enjoying pizza tacos from a hip food truck. Meanwhile, Mr. Bighead is dealing with a mistake, resulting in the fall of his company, Conglom-O. But Rocko is still hyperfocused on getting access to The Fatheads, which isn't available in the 21st century either. The solution for everyone? Find Ralph Bighead, who disappeared on a journey of discovery many years ago.
Is it any good?
While it's just as raunchy and edgy as viewers remember, this brief return to O-Town is also a surprisingly warm commentary on nostalgia culture and accepting change in a fast-moving world. While the first half of the special is a wild ride of rediscovery for Rocko's crew, Ralph Bighead's transition to Rachel dominates the second. When Rachel's gender is revealed, Heffer pauses and then says "Wow, cool"; just another 21st-century change that's as easy to accept as a pizza taco. It's more difficult for Mr. Bighead, who admits to suffering from a case of TMC, "Too much change." For a special that's still stuck in the '90s in some ways (fat jokes? really?), Static Cling handles Rachel's transition and her family's challenges sensitively.
As all of the characters learn to embrace change and figure out what's important, the sweetness shines through with a triumphant ending that's filled with meta moments. A character tells Rocko "An old cartoon isn't going to solve the kinds of problems you have," but it helps him work through them nonetheless. The new generation of viewers might not get jokes about "the root of capitalist redundancy," but the old ones sure will, and kids can digest the positive messages hiding beneath the booger jar.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about nostalgia and the desire for comfort. Why do you think Rocko loves The Fatheads so much? How does watching the show make him feel?
Change is a challenge for both Rocko and Mr. Fathead in this special. How do each of them go about accepting changes that they didn't feel ready for?
- In theaters: August 9, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 9, 2019
- Cast: Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler
- Directors: Joe Murray, Cosmo Segurson
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 45 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 18, 2019
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