Saturday, January 30, 2021

An Extremely Goofy Movie

Note: This review contains spoilers for An Extremely Goofy Movie.

Five years after A Goofy Movie, Disney released a direct-to-video standalone sequel, An Extremely Goofy Movie, on Leap Day in 2000. I remember watching this film as a kid and liking it, mostly for the extreme sports angle, but largely forgot the story over the years until I decided to rewatch it after viewing A Goofy Movie. Watching this film again as an adult, I saw it as a sequel that squandered its own potentially interesting plotlines and realized that the three security stickers on my sealed DVD copy were actually a warning.

Sometime after the events of A Goofy Movie, Max Goof (Jason Marsden) leaves home to start his freshman year at college, where his friends, P.J. (Rob Paulsen) and Bobby (Pauly Shore), plan to compete in their school’s X Games. There, they gain the attention of Bradley Uppercrust III (Jeff Bennett), the leader of Gamma House, which won every year’s College X Games. Bradley offers Max a spot on their team, but Max declines in favor of beating Bradley himself. Meanwhile, Goofy’s (Bill Farmer) empty nest syndrome causes him to lose focus and get fired from work. When he tries to get another job, he learns that he needs to get a degree and attends Max’s college to increase his employability and reconnect with his son. In the process, however, Goofy also ends up joining Gamma House for the X Games.

Empty nest syndrome hits Goofy (Bill Farmer) hard.

The beginning of the film actually isn’t that bad, since the idea of Max going to college and having Goofy deal with that is an interesting premise on its own, as is Max dealing with his father’s continued presence. Goofy also has a love interest, Silvia Marpole (Bebe Neuwirth), which also adds a unique dynamic to the film and Goofy’s character, since Goofy had been a single parent for the longest time. P.J. also has a love interest, the Beret Girl (Vicki Lewis), giving him the chance to finally feel confident and happy. However, whatever potential these subplots had is marred by both its ignorance of the ending of A Goofy Movie, where Max and Goofy grew closer in spite of their differences, and the heavy focus on competition.

In contrast to A Goofy Movie’s focus on family bonding, this film places more emphasis on the X Games to the point where the more emotional subplots are sidelined. Even then, the competition story is handled rather poorly. It’s obvious the story is meant to take place over the span of a semester, but there are so many time skips and montages that I felt uncertain of when anything actually happened, which also causes a lot of the plot to occur offscreen. For instance, we only see the qualifying round, which inexplicably implies that only two teams are competing, then suddenly everyone’s in the finals, where there are not only more competitors that leave just as quickly as they appear, but the events are rushed through until the triathlon. During whatever we see of the X Games, the Gammas also engage in very blatant cheating, including rocket boosters no less, which took me out of the film and made me wonder out loud why they weren’t disqualified on the spot.

An early act of blatant cheating from Bradley Uppercrust III (Jeff Bennett).

Of course, the rushed pacing of the film affects other parts of the plot as well. Almost all of P.J.’s character development occurs offscreen, so his character arc doesn’t get a proper resolution (it doesn’t help that he’s literally shot out of the movie in the third act). Goofy’s main subplot of getting a degree also flew by, since he seems to graduate in only a semester, or at least that’s how the timeline presents itself.

In a way, the film almost wrote itself, as it also felt cliché and predictable. It recycles clichés from other college films, including, but not limited to, Goofy wearing the same clothes he had in the 70s and the fact that a slim rich guy, Bradley Uppercrust III, has a bulky subordinate, Tank (Brad Garrett). There’s also an odd melting pot of 50s, 60s and 70s clichés, including a coffee house full of beatniks, disco dancing, Goofy’s fashion choice (including an inexplicable afro wig) and repeated use of the term “Groovy”. From the outset it was also easy to figure out exactly what would happen and, later on, predict certain jokes, like several bookshelves falling over in the library, and even specific lines of dialogue.

A coffee house filled with 50s beatniks is such a cliché.

An increased focus on humor also undercuts the potential for more serious character arcs like in A Goofy Movie. One side effect is that Bobby gets an increased amount of screen time, yet he doesn’t really add anything to the story outside the occasional comic relief, sometimes at his expense. At the same time, the film tries to have a touching finale meant to bookend the beginning and mirror the ending of its predecessor, but it only really works for Goofy and Silvia and, even then, didn’t feel earned since their relationship didn’t have enough breathing room.

Since An Extremely Goofy Movie is, at least on paper, a sequel to A Goofy Movie, a couple glaring differences stood out to me. The biggest is despite Max spending the entirety of the first movie wanting to impress Roxanne, she’s nowhere in this film and isn’t even given a passing mention. Additionally, Goofy inexplicably changes jobs, going from child photography to working the assembly line in a toy factory.

Unfortunately, the animation also feels like a step down from A Goofy Movie. It’s not that bad and obviously has a lower budget more appropriate for a DTV film, but it certainly looks lazier in general. For one thing, there’s less of a real attention to detail, like how at each leg of the climactic triathlon, the number of BMX bikes and skateboards set up is exactly equal to the number of teammates left in the competition even though the organizers would have more than likely set up a full set of six.

A higher emphasis on comedy also noticeably affected the animation choices, including an increase in medium shots and less detailed lighting and shading, creating a flatter look. However, the skateboarding segments were animated fairly well and I wished there was more of that. Of course, the focus on the X Games means there’s also very blatant product placement for ESPN and ESPN2, to the point where I wondered out loud if An Extremely Goofy Movie was actually a glorified ESPN ad.

Can you tell they're on ESPN?

As for the voice acting, I didn’t have any issues with it, since just about everyone is talented enough to get the job done. However, I was disappointed that Bill Farmer didn’t get as much of a chance to explore the non-goofy side of Goofy, since his emotional range in A Goofy Movie was a nice change of pace. Additionally, Pauly Shore has a lot more lines and, while somewhat tolerable, isn’t particularly funny due to Bobby’s purpose of saying things in an exaggerated fashion. I will note, however, that he managed a straight delivery of a meta joke about how many of the characters wear gloves all the time.

I didn’t mind the idea that An Extremely Goofy Movie wasn’t a musical, but I did notice an increase in the number of licensed tracks, especially songs from the 60s and 70s. There’s even a point where the plot stops cold for a disco sequence that plays the entirety of “Shake Your Groove Thing” by Peaches & Herb. It’s not a bad song, but it came off like they had the license and were determined to use it.

The disco sequence feels like extended filler;
Pictured: Sylvia Marpole (Bebe Neuwirth, Left), Goofy (Right)

Beneath An Extremely Goofy Movie’s more comedic exterior lies a dramatic story about college life, but the lazy writing and animation hold it back from ever reaching its full potential. If you didn’t like the more dramatic take on Goofy from the previous film, then you may find something to like here. Otherwise, I’d say you could safely skip this and not miss anything.

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