Netflix’s 2D Animation Arlo the Alligator Boy - A Musical Mash-up That’s Here To Stay
Arlo the Alligator Boy - what is it? Well, we can tell what it isn’t, and that would be a film. Or at least, it doesn’t feel like it, mainly because the streaming service has announced a 20 episode spin-off series all about Arlo. The world we are introduced to just seems like a lengthy pilot episode rather than the movie it’s so crudely labelled to be.
The animation centralises about a bunch of wacky characters, with the production feeling like one big setup for what's to come.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Not everything has to be a theatrical masterpiece. Whatever you decide to categorise this as it has to be said that Ryan Crago's directorial debut is a positive one. Arlo the Alligator Boy is a fluffy, warming adventure that comes fully equipped with a moral message about staying true and humble.
At times, Arlo feels like a very well-crafted cartoon. At others, it seems like the retelling of someone’s first trip to Amsterdam. Seriously, get a load of the characters that inhabit this world - a teenage tiger, a miniature Italian man, a girl with gigantism, a fish with human legs, a pink-hairball, and lastly but certainly not least is the loveable and kind humanoid reptile Arlo Beauregard who has left his home in the swamp to find his father in New York City. Luckily for Arlo and us, he is accompanied by his eccentric entourage, who cook up a storm of laughter and future nightmares all at once.
The story begins when a baby Arlo finds himself drifting in his bassinet down the sewers of Bellevue Hospital all the way to the swamps of Louisiana. Here he’s spotted by a lady named Edmée (Annie Potts), who raises him as one of her own. But Arlo soon learns that he was born in New York City setting him out on a quest to find his father, who he hopes can shed some light on his life.
Along the way, he makes a friend in the giantess Bertie (Mary Lambert), with the pair befriending a bunch of outcasts led by Teeny Tiny Tony (Tony Hale), a tiny Italian man with rodent features. The newfound crew set a course for New York City as they speed up the highway in a tricked-out camper van - did they have in-car entertainment? Yep. Arlo works his pipes as he hits them with a series of catchy jingles and melodies.
Teeny Tiny Tony is a fun creation, maybe a tad bit offensive to Italians when you think about it, giving him a mafia persona and his very own pizza shop went a long way to doing this. Arlo’s other friends include a pink hairball named Furlecia (Jonathan Van Ness), the tiger-girl Alia (Haley Tju), and a wise-cracking fish named Marcellus (Brett Gelman). In all fairness, this is about as much character depth as we get - the film does basic introductions and sets up the story. But as far as character arcs go, it’s pretty standard stuff.
Arlo is voiced by former “American Idol” contestant Michael J. Woodard who brings song and soul to the character as well as bundles of hyperactive energy. But even with all the fun characters and musical numbers, it still feels like a TV movie. We can forgive this because it’s fun, kooky, and has some relatively funny jokes for a PG-rated film. The cast also includes Jennifer Coolidge and the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea as villains who hunt Arlo down, thinking that he would be the perfect tourist attraction for their gator farm, the Gator X-Perience.
The 2D animation for Arlo the Alligator Boy is done beautifully. At times the portrayal of the scenes feels like you’re flipping between a storybook. The way Arlo views the world is all ice cream and rainbows. In a nutshell, the designs embody Arlo's outlook on the world. From the whimsical characters to the real-life locations - the animation is top-notch.
Arlo the Alligator Boy is the starter - the main and dessert will come served when the TV series reaches our screens. Hopefully, at this moment, we can get more scope on the characters inside this world. Strangely, this would also work if it was targeted at a much older audience. If you added a bit more crudeness in places and rejigged the script, it would make a funny adult comedy working on the level of hits like Rick and Morty, or even Cartoon Network's often crude Regular Show. But alas, it also fits the stencil perfectly for a younger audience, and the endless songs certainly hone in on that.
The group's journey to the Big Apple feels like it was only fathomed to introduce us to the whole ensemble. Yet, at the same time, it was very entertaining and when Arlo finally finds the true identity of his father it certainly is a fun plot twist.
We won’t give too much away, but Crago should never teach sex education classes. It would be diabolical for the students and the local wildlife...
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