Review: “Kim Possible” turns one of Disney’s best animated series into a mildly above-average DCOM

Let me preface this by saying I am well aware that I’m not within the target audience for this movie. However, since the animated series was aiming at roughly the same demographic and still holds up today, I think it’s fair to hold the new iteration to the same standard.

Of all the live-action remakes being churned out by Disney in recent years, the new Kim Possible reboot may very well be the least necessary. The original series was likely the Disney Channel’s best animated show of the early 2000s — it was funny, clever, exciting, and wasn’t in the business of talking down to its viewers. And although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this new interpretation fails at all of those things, many of the stronger elements it pulls from the show are watered down for the sake of getting through the story in 90 minutes.

Far and away the best part of the film is the cast. Sadie Stanley gives a solid debut performance as the title character, playing her with all the confidence we’ve come to expect from Kim, but also a fair amount of vulnerability to make her more identifiable and strengthen her arc. Sean Giambrone is likable and only somewhat irritating (as Ron is meant to be), and Taylor Ortega perfectly exudes Shego’s intimidating and snarky demeanor. Even actors with significantly less screen time have their characters’ personalities down to a T, particularly Alyson Hannigan as Kim’s mother and Erika Tham as her high school rival Bonnie. Todd Stashwick gives a serviceable performance as classic arch-enemy Dr. Drakken, but seems to be caught in between playing him in an over-the-top fashion similar to the show and giving a somewhat more low-key interpretation of the character; the portrayal would’ve been much stronger, or at least more memorable, had he stuck with one or the other. That said, the script still nails the dynamic between him and Shego.

It’s a good thing the actors pull through overall, because it’s left almost entirely up to them to convey character progression and emotion. Sure, that’s their job, but in a movie they should have some help from the director, and they’re mostly on their own here. The direction and editing are awkward: a lot of scenes end abruptly, the dialogue and action are often poorly paced, and there’s a weird overuse of split-screens. The third-act reveal of Drakken’s plan and the origins of a new character both seem to come out of nowhere; the intention is to hold suspense up to that point, but the writers seem so afraid of predictability that they give us little to no information to go on. As a result, scenes following Drakken and Shego start to become repetitive with no real clues to how they plan to achieve their goal of stealing Kim’s “spark.”

A side effect of this being an adaptation of a TV show that had around 80–90 episodes to round out its characters and conflicts is that those elements are glaringly underdeveloped here. I said before that even those in the cast with little screen time do a good job at capturing the pre-existing characters’ personalities, but the downside is that they might not stand out as much to new viewers. I spent much of the film wondering if I was only appreciating these performances because I was familiar with the show, since a lot of them made only brief appearances before getting a rushed payoff in the third act. Even Rufus is barely present, being introduced midway through the movie and only showing up a few more times throughout the whole thing. He was a comedic highlight of the show, and though his CGI design is surprisingly cute, he doesn’t get to do much this time around. The movie is trying to balance too many characters and elements mainly because they were in the show, so a lot of them don’t have a chance to make much of an impression.

There’s also the glaring issue of this being a live-action adaptation of an animated property. It’s nothing new for Disney on the whole, but given that this is a TV movie with a lower budget than, say, the 2016 Jungle Book, the effects are pretty underwhelming. I wouldn’t fault the filmmakers for it, it just makes me wonder if live-action was the best way to go for a franchise like Kim Possible. The updates to some of the show’s gadgets are visually interesting, but the new medium brings with it a necessity for stunt doubles and effects that slow the pace of the action sequences and make the setting far less immersive than in a show where the visuals were all in the same style and thus blended together much better. Even Kim’s house is computer-generated in another awkward attempt to match the show, and at that point it’s not even remotely necessary.

On the whole, the new Kim Possible is nowhere near the disaster it could have been. It still displays an understanding of the show’s tone and humor, and even has some shining moments of its own. Adapting a series into a film is notoriously difficult, and although it hits some snags with its supporting cast, it still manages to tell a self-contained story that feels like it would fit in the original universe (perhaps a little too well — there are some definite parallels to 2005’s So the Drama), which is something the likes of M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t pull off when attempting the same transfer in a theatrical release with a gargantuan budget. Still, it can’t quite capture the full appeal of the series. I understand wanting to introduce these characters to a new generation, but that probably could have been accomplished by simply rerunning the episodes, or even doing a revival series in the same vein as Raven’s Home or Girl Meets World.

At the end of the day, the movie does nothing to insult or smear its source material. If kids like it, that’s great for them. There’s some clear effort put into it, and it’s a harmless fun time for younger viewers and maybe even nostalgic fans of the show. I don’t see myself watching the sequel that’s set up at the end, but it’s good to know that the show lives on in one way or another. But if you really just want to see the original again, I’d recommend skipping this and watching a few episodes on DisneyNOW.

A junior at Hollins University whose penchant for Disney led into a love for all things film. Amateur film critic and aspiring screenwriter/director. View all posts by Mary McKeon

Originally published at miseensense.wordpress.com on February 16, 2019.

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