Released: 16th April
Seen: 18th June
Back in the 90s and early 2000’s, Disney had this thing that they did where they would make a movie out of the first three episodes of an upcoming series in order to get people used to what was to come. This led to such films as The Return of Jafar, Mighty Ducks the Movie: The First Face Off and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins among a whole cornucopia of other films.
Using a film as a test pilot for a series is something that doesn’t seem to be done that much anymore, except Netflix has decided to revive the practice with the promise that their film Army of the Dead will turn into an entire franchise and now Arlo the Alligator Boy will turn into a full series… and if it’s even half as good as this movie then that’s going to be a glorious little show.
Arlo (Michael J. Woodard) is a half human half alligator who lives in a little swamp with a woman named Edmee (Annie Potts) who has been raising him ever since she found him in her swamp. See, when Arlo was born in New York City he was placed in a drain that sent him to the swamp he now lives in, something Arlo learns about on his 15th birthday. With this new information, Arlo decides he wants to go to New York to find out if he has any real family there.
On his way to New York, Arlo is soon followed by a pair of hunters named Ruff (Flea) and Stucky (Jennifer Coolidge) who are just about to catch Arlo when he’s rescued by the teenage vegan wrestler Bertie (Mary Lambert). She agrees to accompany Arlo on his trip to New York, on the way they’ll meet a bunch of interestingly weird characters who might just teach Arlo a lesson about family that he didn’t expect to learn.
If we were to look at this as simply the pilot episode that’s going to set up the world for an upcoming series, Arlo the Alligator Boy hits all the right notes. The animation is simplistic but very expressive which makes for a lot of fun visual gags. It’s the kind of animation I could see enjoying a lot in small chunks over the course of a couple of seasons of family friendly entertainment. The designs are just unique enough that every character is instantly recognisable and lovable. I particularly enjoyed the wild design of a character named Furlecia (Jonathan Van Ness) and would love a plush version of this character ASAP.
Arlo the Alligator Boy not only just a joy to look at but it’s blessed with a beautiful soundtrack, from the toe tapping opening of More More More to the energetic rags to riches banger Better Life (performed by Vincent Rodriguez III who also is in Arlo the Alligator Boy, but I didn’t have a chance to drop his character name yet so I’ll reveal that here) it’s all just so joyful and catchy that you’ll find yourself humming a lot of these numbers long after the movie ends. Yep, another fun bright bold musical treat, this seems to be a year full of those.
Arlo the Alligator Boy just never lets down the charm, from the innocence of Arlo to the determined friendship of Bertie, every minute of the film just warms the cockles of your heart without even seeming to try. It offers a nice fun complete story that also can easily be translated into a full series, which is fortunate considering that’s the plan. Luckily for them this film never feels like it NEEDS the series in order to feel complete, you’re not going to get some cheap cliffhanger that’ll force you into viewing more if you don’t want to… but the movie is so charming I’ll be surprised if you aren’t at least curious about where this is going.
There’s also a lack of complexity going on here, at least on the surface. Sure Arlo the Alligator Boy is another story about chosen families being more important than the ones you happen to be related to but that’s really it, it’s a very simple little story that’s easy for little kids to follow and enjoy. They’ll like the cute designs, bounce around during some of the songs and laugh at the antics of the silly alligator boy who looks more like an alligator and less like a boy. It’s not taxing on the brain, it’s just the kind of film you can pop on and enjoy without expecting to have to read too much into it.
Arlo the Alligator Boy is a charming animated musical with a fantastic cast, great designs and songs that will instantly have you tapping your toes along to the beat. From start to finish it’s just a simple sweet film that’s designed to make you smile and it does that pretty effectively. The characters were so much fun to spend an hour and a half with that I’m eager to see what happens when we have an entire series about this ragtag group of creatures.