Updated: Nov 6, 2020
As a kid with no backyard to play in, I spent most of my time indoors, inventing and imagining grand stories for me and my stuffed animals. So when Phineas and Ferb first came on Disney Channel, I was immediately hooked. Here was this best-friend-step-brother pair, whose genius creations helped them and their friends have fun, save the world, or both. They were everything I wanted to be and more.
Years later, it’s safe to say that most kids with access to Disney Channel adore Phineas and Ferb just as much. Even after its final episode aired in 2015, every summer brings back reminders of its iconic opening sequence, every mention of platypuses conjures images of our favorite secret agent, and, come on, everyone’s imitated the Doofenshmirtz Evil Inc. jingle at some point. If you haven’t sang (or shouted) the theme song with friends, have you even lived? The announcement that a new movie entitled Phineas and Ferb: Candace Against the Universe was on the way sparked a blizzard of elation on the internet, with teenagers and young adults alike bursting with anticipation.
Now, if you’ve never actually watched the series before, I’ll fill you in. The 2007 animated show focused on two wildly inventive kids, who vow to spend each day of summer vacation having the most fun possible. Their sister Candace, a caricature of volatile teenagers at its finest, is determined to bust the duo for their daily plans, and always fails to do so by a hair’s breadth. Elsewhere in the fictional town of Danville, the boys’ pet platypus Perry doubles as Agent P, a spy assigned to stop the “evil” Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from his latest - and debatably - diabolical schemes.
Candace Against the Universe marks the second film for the series, bringing characters back to life for the first time since 2015 (unless you count cameo appearances in Milo Murphy’s Law, another Disney show). It starts with the same premise as usual - Phineas and Ferb are having fun, and Candace is most definitely not. While she laments her losses in the one-sided battle against her brothers, she’s abducted by aliens and taken to the mysterious planet of Feebla-Oot. The eponymous duo gather their friends and team up with Dr. Doofenshmirtz, whose daughter was also taken by the same aliens, for the perilous mission to save Candace.
So, how does Candace Against the Universe hold up as a P&F story? To be fair, this isn’t their first time in space. The original show took them to that great unknown several times, whether it was for a split second or a whole episode. Some have used this repetition to claim the film lacked originality; nonetheless, it’s vital to note that space is diverse. As far as we know, there’s an infinite amount of life outside of our planet, so who are we to say that Phineas and Ferb have seen everything there is to see in the galaxy? Each trip has been unique: after all, you can’t really compare building a portal to Mars for a science fair to running a milkshake bar on a star they own. Plus, their familiarity with space travel makes the journey itself much easier.
As for the references and running gags, they stayed strong consistently throughout the 87 minutes of excitement. Not only were little details included from the original (like Ducky Momo, frequently-appearing background characters, and the Giant Floating Baby Head, to name a few), but there were tons of newly formed jokes for audiences who may otherwise be unfamiliar with the town of Danville. Viewers may be surprised that, considering it’s a children’s film, there’s an absence of juvenile bodily-function jokes, like farts, burps, and everything else that often makes a seven year old laugh. Phineas and Ferb was never a show to rely on those punch lines habitually, and it’s almost a relief to not have to sit through an hour and a half’s worth of gross humor.
Beyond these fan-centered aspects, however, was it up to par as a movie? The short answer: yes. Despite a few missed opportunities, such as involving characters in the main plotline and dropping them rather quickly (which can likely be attributed to deleted scenes), the story is incredibly cohesive and a delight. Its songs are not as infectious as usual, but they’re still energetic and amusing. The characters are perfectly imperfect, and completely supportable. Most notably, Candace has always been the central antagonist to Phineas and Ferb’s cheerful summer, yet she’s more than just a screaming teenage tattle-tale. Now given the position of protagonist, she has the opportunity to reveal her insecurities about her self-worth, and comes to terms with how that doesn’t excuse her cruel behavior. It’s a growing experience that the audience can appreciate and understand. Even the actual villain is, to an extent, relatable. The film captures both the action and emotional scenes well, in a way kids and adults simultaneously can enjoy.
All in all, Candace Against the Universe lives up to its high standards, both as a movie overall and as another installment of Phineas and Ferb. This wonderful story is the highlight of this period of isolation, bringing vibrancy to our lonely circumstances. Enjoy the last days of summer before autumn sweeps in by giving it a watch.
Phineas and Ferb: Candace Against the Universe can be streamed on Disney+.