Tooncrap #13 - Doug's 1st Movie

And thank god it's his last.
Disney: 1999

Written by: Raymond Gallant

One of the cartoons I'm often asked to review is the Disney version of Doug. And to be fair, there's a lot to cover involving just why the move from Nickelodeon to Disney came at a price. But before I get too ahead of myself, let's talk about what Doug is for those, like maybe 4 people who read this who weren't 90's kids.

Doug was the creation of animator Jim Jinkins, who first introduced the world to Doug as a character featured in several commercials, including a bumper for the USA network. In 1991, as Nickelodeon was becoming more high on original content for their network, Jinkins and his company, the then Jumbo Pictures, worked on giving Doug his own cartoon show to be one of the three original Nicktoons, alongside Ren and Stimpy, and Rugrats.

The story focused around a 12-year old boy named Doug Funnie, who moves to a town called Bluffington, with his family and his dog Porkchop. He meets several colorful (literally) characters, including his best friend Skeeter Valentine, an annoyance who makes these really annoying honking noises.

Honk honk one more time, I swear I'll snap that nose off!

There was also local bully Roger Klotz, who served as the show's main antagonist.

And owner of perhaps the world's most douchiest haircut.

There was Mr. Dink, Doug's neighbor, who would usually buy useless tools and inventions due to literally being a D.I.N.K (Double Income, No Kids).

And finally, because I'm not going talk about every damn character and side-plot in the friggin' Doug universe, there was Patti Mayonnaise, the love interest of Doug, and a character of indeterminate sexuality. Those who remember that meme know what I'm getting at.

The main gimmick of the show sees Doug going on misadventures, usually overly imagining things, and then writing in his journal. That's really kind of it for the most part. But it worked, as Doug managed to last from 1991 up until 1994 with a total of 4 seasons and 52 episodes. So, it looked like the sun set with a decent show, right?
Well, unfortunately no, as the mouse would come knocking, and after Disney's acquisition of ABC, they wanted to bulk up their new "One Saturday Morning" block with some brand spanking new shows. And one of them would end up being Doug... Or, as it was called at the time "Brand Spanking New Doug". And of course, it had to REALLY be brand spanking new.

As in they changed a lot of the town of Bluffington and the characters within. Roger Klotz can't be a poor bully, he has to suddenly be rich. Characters like Connie can't be overweight, or the least bit chunky. Let's get thin as a rake. Who can relate to Honker Burger? Let's have Chez Honque. And of course the ultimate act of show stupidity...

Cleopatra Dirtbike Funnie. No, seriously. Cleopatra Dirtbike Funnie? You hold a contest for a new baby name and THAT'S the winner?

So despite the show actually making it to 65 episodes over Nick's 52, and even getting a movie (We're getting to it), Disney's Doug has been considered by many fans as the worst iteration of the series. But to be fair, I can see why. Disney's whitewashing really hurts this series, and leads it into some really idiotic territory. I mean, how dare we expose kids to the idea of poverty? How dare we have kids be exposed to someone who isn't skinny? How dare we expose our children to Billy West?

But, like I said, the show lasted to 65 episodes, and Disney was feeling good about the show. So good that they actually gave it their own theatrical film. Which is pretty ballsy to do considering they were in a real big Direct-To-Video kick. But considering the success of Rugrats the Movie, everyone wanted a piece of the "cartoon to the big screen". And while some were good, like Hey Arnold! The Movie, and Teacher's Pet, most are pretty forgettable, especially the film du jour , which Disney even had the gall to call the "First movie". Like they were banking on this to be a film franchise of Tolkien-esque levels.

So, let's see why this first ultimately was the last. Let's review this thing.

We open the film at Lucky Duck Lake, as Roger and his cronies are fishing in the middle of February, awaiting the arrival of Doug and Skeeter, who are still trying to get proof of the mythical lake monster. However, despite the duo's monster hunting, Doug is more concerned with the upcoming Valentine's Day dance.

Roger and his lackeys want to freak the honk honk out of Skeeter, but get caught by Doug. But since Doug is a wuss, and can be easily defeated, they strip him down to his underwear, instead of, you know, just beating him up or something. However, when they do try to scare Skeeter, something actually does rise out of the lake, and advances on Skeeter, thankfully killing him off five minutes into the film......

I wish.

But enough about disembowelment and lake monsters, because THE VALENTINE'S DAY DANCE IS COMING UP! And every kid in school seems to be going ape over it. Not just the girls, but the guys as well, making this feel like it's almost some second coming of Jesus. But for Doug Funnie, it means that after all the seasons of waiting, he can finally nut up and ask Patti to dance with him.

And opportunity knocks for Doug as he learns that despite this being the biggest dance of the millennium and beyond, nobody signed up to actually plan the dance. Doug imagines that this will be a perfect way to spend time with Patti.

As in literally imagining it through some strange war-time strategy session dream. This reminds me a lot of shows like Bobby's World that focused a lot of the show's more entertaining sections through the imagination of the protagonist. And to be fair, most of the time, Doug did it pretty well. Though I do wonder how his imagination actually works, because these go way too long without people wondering if he's gone in some loony trance.

Or in this case getting a little too imaginative.

But before Doug and Patti can sign up, they get interrupted by a guy named... well... Guy. An upperclassman head of the school paper, who looks like he just walked out of the "Stock rich antagonist" auditions for this film. Patti signs, and Doug follows suit. However, it turns out that sign-up sheets don't matter a damn, as Guy just announces he and Patti have signed up, throwing away the sign-up sheet.

You'd say that's not fair, but since he's friends with often douchey rich girl Bebe Bluff and her father, it truly exemplifies the age old saying, "Screw the rules, I have money".

But Doug's Patti woes are put on hold as Skeeter actually has proof of a monster in the lake. But mainly just a picture of the monster's foot.

And this just leads us into an imagination skit with Doug's superhero alter ego Quailman, complete with a rather monotone narrator. He and Porkchop are the heroes, while Guy is of course the villainous "Lord of the Polka", who has Patti under his spell. But there's also a giant monster attack that Quailman and Quaildog have to stop. You'd think this would be a really cool battle, but it's kinda stock, and nothing really exciting happens. And it's the longest imagination bit in the film too. It seriously just feels like padding mayonnaise.

While all that's happening, Roger is lamenting over the idea that the monster they saw at the lake may actually be on Skeeter's side, but he eventually comes up with an idea to fight back and continue his bullying ways. So to put a stop to the monster, he hires the brainiest kids in the school to create him a giant robot named Robocrusher. The entire bit has the nerds sneezing and coughing insults towards Roger, and I guess it's supposed to be funny, but like a lot of the humor in this film, it falls flat.

Doug is now more focused to catch the monster since it means he'll be better than Guy, but their bikes end up nabbed by the monster. If things aren't worse for ol' Mr. Douglas Yancy, Patti calls him to say that working with Guy was a great idea since he was able to get the dance at Funkytown. Though they could only get one member of Lipps Inc, and one member of Pseudo Echo for the dance. Doug ends up distracted as Patti mentions meeting him in an hour.

Turns out the monster didn't eat the bikes, and decided to shack at Skeeter's house. They eventually track it in his room, and it's at least clever enough not to use the old under bed and closet routine. After Skeeter is scared of it, it turns out the monster is actually a pretty nice creature, who is well versed in eating reading material. Also it apparently likes the name Herman Melville. I can't think of a better tribute for the author, to have his name latched to a crappy kids movie. Then again, at least it's not Cleopatra Dirtbike Herman Melville.

Doug and Skeeter are, as expected, quite elated over Herman, and hope to use him to be famous. So they go to Mayor Tippi.

But we can't just get to the meat of the monster matter, we need some Hijinks with Bud Dink and the newest piece of crap he bought. Looks like Mr. Dink was on the whole virtual reality wave, and has the boys gear up too. And it turns out it's just a virtual simulation of just being in Mr. Dink's living room. Boy, leave it to Mr. Dink to make the Oculus Rift sound boring.

Doug and Skeeter show Herman to the Dinks, and Tippi realizes that maybe alerting the media about a giant monster from a polluted lake isn't such a good idea. She says its' for Herman's safety, but let's be honest. Who's the mayor whose career is on the line should she be the one in office when news about how there were no efforts to clean a polluted lake, and the creatures that spawned from the radiation and chemicals within. And how I'm assuming that the money she makes is mostly being spent by her bumbling husband for toys and machinery he barely ever uses.
Not to mention that since Bluff co. owns the paper, and it's boss Bill Bluff is the one polluting the lake, they will kill the story, and Herman as well. So they have to keep Herman hidden until Tippi can make a press conference the next day. So, Bud comes up with an idea to keep him nice and inconspicuous.

Yeah, no one will suspect a thing.

And I guess no one does as Doug's mother suspects that it's Doug's sister Judy rehearsing for a play. Despite the build, and the FRIGGIN WEBBED FLIPPERS being a big giveaway that it might not be. Oh, and the fact that Judy eventually does come home, proving that everyone involved in this whole scheme is a friggin' idiot.

And to compound Doug's idiocy, he of course completely forgot to meet Patti. And despite his best Ferris Bueller shortcuttery, he still ends up late, muddy, and with ripped pants. But, as expected, Guy showed up and took a reasonably upset Patti. Doug eventually goes to Funkytown to try to explain his actions. Doug, like an idiot, mentions that Mr. Bluff's been polluting the lake, despite realizing that Guy Graham is working with Patti, and as it's been established in the film already, he is friends with Mr. Bluff. It also doesn't help that Doug kept the picture of Herman with him, which just so happens to fall out of his jacket, and into the hands of Guy.

Dear Journal, Doug is kind of a moron.

A new day dawns , a the press conference is set for the night. Doug, of course, wants to make sure Patti comes. Oh, and is also at the press conference. Of course, Patti suggests bringing Guy, which Doug has no problems with. You know, to add to the list of screw ups he's already committed. And it of course blows up in his face as Guy tells Mr. Bluff in advance.

As Tippi gives the press conference to a bunch of obviously fake reporters, Skeeter feels it would be better to just take Herman back. But Doug, more focused on Patti, would rather prove to the world that Herman is real, than bring him back. Tippi decides to let Skeeter tell the story, which he does... I think. He does a bunch of stupid sound effects.

Michael Winslow you ain't!

Patti and Guy arrive, and we get some exposition that Guy has to write the story a week in advance before they can even print it out. Pay attention to that line, as it's going to make Doug look like an even bigger idiot. After Doug's elation, he soon realizes that hey, maybe all these reporters in trench coats may be phonies when the interview isn't airing on TV, and he's right for once. Doug tries to hide the truth, Patti thinks he's a phony, and things continue to suck for ol' Doug.

Oh right, I almost forgot about the B plot to this film. Back to Roger and the nerds as Robocrusher is revealed. Roger is none too happy that the robot isn't gigantic, and the nerds from like out of nowhere whip out a shrink ray and shrink Roger. Which makes you wonder why the hell a bunch of scientifically gifted teenagers with the ability to not only create a robot but a fully functional shrink ray are wasting their time with some rich jerk. Unless they're mooching off him for their own scientific gain.

Oh, and they sure aren't done screwing with him since it acts less like a device of destruction, and more like Rosie the Robot without the lovable sass, and with a Julia Child voice that you know the kids are going to get immediately.

Back to Doug, as it turns out that just maybe making a big hoopla about Herman initially may have come back to bite him in the butt as he's constantly being spied on. So, to protect Herman, Doug goes to the oldest cliché in the book.

Dress Herman up as a human girl to trick people. And the sad thing is, despite the fact that he looks like a frigging sea creature in drag, everyone falls for it, believing "Hermione" is just some exchange student. You know, those exchange students with their blue skin, scales, and amphibian faces. Even Patti, who I swear has more logic to put 2 and 2 together than this, believes that Doug is ditching her for Hermione.

The idiot ball in this film is bouncing and hitting the ceiling now.

Doug and Skeeter finally realize that Herman's not safe in Bluffington anymore, and has to go back to the lake. They say this out loud of course, despite it being well established already that Mr. Bluff has people in disguise trying to get Herman. And even if Doug didn't realize it (which makes sense considering how stupid he's been so far), you'd hope he would considering the fact that we just went through that whole press conference bit.

And guess what frigging happens.

With Herman now captured by Mr. Bluff, and more proof that the lake is horribly polluted, the boys try the most brilliant plan yet... tell the cops on Mr. Bluff. And, as expected, it doesn't work. So, the next logical step for Doug is to talk to Guy. You know, the SAME GUY WHO IS FRIENDS WITH MR. BLUFF AND HAS DONE NOTHING IN THIS FILM BUT MAKE YOU LOOK BAD AND COCK BLOCK YOU IN FRONT OF PATTI?

But instead, Doug and Skeeter end up in the newspaper office in the school, and sees an article for next week's paper that Herman is dead. Doug is sad that Herman is dead, despite not putting two and two together yet that it's next week's paper. It literally takes him like I'm guessing an hour or two to finally clue in that HEY DUMBASS, THE ARTICLE IS FOR NEXT WEEK'S NEWSPAPER! Eventually they read the damn article saying that Herman was destroyed when he rampaged in the Valentine's dance.

They could go to Mayor Tippi for help. You know if Mr. Bluff didn't send her out of town. So, Mayor Tippi was so concerned about Herman's well being, and knows flat out that Mr. Bluff is polluting the lake, but willingly accepts some business he has for her in Bloatsberg? WHY? Unless she got wickedly paid off, there would be no reason for her to accept his business.

So for once in this whole movie Doug decides to use logic to hope to save Herman for the dance. But they can't take Herman to Lucky Duck Lake. However, conveniently they can take Herman to the Crystal Lake, behind Funkytown.

*sigh* Doug's a dumbass.

The Valentine's dance finally arrives, and everyone shows up. Even Roger and his motherly robot. Not to mention a bunch of snipers. And oh right, Doug's plan screwed up again, not taking into account the fact that maybe, oh just maybe, Bluff co. got all this set up before the dance?

Realizing Herman is in the giant heart, Doug and Skeeter try to escape with him, while distracting the snipers with Robocrusher. The snipers open fire on Robocrusher, in a hail of blasts so devastating, it feels like a kid friendly version of Peter Weller being blown to bits in Robocop. Seriously, you feel bad for the poor robot as it just gets wailed on.

I mean, holy crap.

The duo get Herman to the new lake, as they get cornered. He escapes into the lake, much to the angered chagrin of Mr. Bluff. He swears revenge, until Bebe cracks the whip. Not to mention Mayor Dink actually doing something about the whole pollution thing. And since we need to wrap things up, Doug finally comes clean to Patti, as she finally sees Herman.

It's time to finally say goodbye to Herman. Skeeter gives him his copy of Moby Dick, because, you know, that will last in water. Guy gets what's coming to him by Patti, Herman exits to his new watery home, and Roger is still being chased by...


And Doug gets some his sweet, sweet Mayonnaise. And the film finally ends.

Doug's First Movie is far from the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's also a pretty bland film. Nothing really interesting, creative, or funny happens throughout. Hell, the best stuff happens with the B plot with Roger and Robocrusher, but you barely get enough time with it. Instead, it's play idiot ball with Doug Funnie for 75 minutes as he pines for a girl while constantly lacking logic in protecting something.

In the end, it's much like a fair representative of Disney's Doug. It feels like a drastic dip in quality from the Nickelodeon version, feeling like a franchise that should have ended long ago. But for all the changes, it's still far from the most offensive cartoon ever, and even for as much of a dud this film is, it's still an okay film to show kids. But all the same, there are more fun movies that use similar tropes and clichés that this really feels boring and dumb in comparison. So, this is still crap, but far from the most harmful.