Hey Hey Hey all you Saturday morning cartoon fans, listen up for the lowdown on the latest retro cartoon to hit the cinemas, the ‘Fat Albert’ movie which opens on Christmas day. The short and skinny is that even though I was looking forward to seeing some of my childhood heroes on the big screen, it’s a stretch to say there’s more than fifteen minutes of true ‘Fat Albert’ fun to be enjoyed in this full length feature.
The ‘Fat Albert’ TV series originally aired on ABC from 1972 to 1979 and for me, was one of the anchors of a full bowl of animated cereal to enjoy. At the time, I never really gave much thought to the politics of the series, instead I simply laughed at the crazy antics of the ‘Fat Albert’ gang, as they played their way through whatever problem they had to solve in a half hour or less. The music and songs that the crew cranked out of their Junkyard headquarters more than carried the meaningful messages about how to be cool regardless of what shape size or color you were.
Fast-forward to the ‘Fat Albert’ film and you have to wonder if this would have been better if a movie version was made in the seventies at the peak of the ‘Fat Albert’ success. Watching the movie, it seems like the ‘Fat Albert’ gang have been added to the Disney movie of the week. The plot focuses on Doris, played by Kyla Pratt who is an avid ‘Fat Albert’ fan with a problem making friends. A few gimmicky special effects tricks later and a gateway for the cartoon characters opens up, with live actors portraying the Cosby kid gang. Donald, Bill, Weird Harold and Mush-mouth are all represented wearing vibrant costumes that begin to fade the longer they stay out in the ‘real world’.
At first it seems like the ‘Fat Albert’ movie might work, with plenty of jokes and tie-ins back to the original cartoon, but the novelty quickly wears off. Just how many times can we be expected to laugh at the tired surprise when the real life cartoons run into modern technology that didn’t exist when their series was on. I mean it’s funny once, but when the third obvious product placement takes the punch line, you start wishing this movie was about seventy minutes shorter. We otherwise wouldn’t have to endure the replacement of the funk music styles with modern hip hop acts that Warner Brothers forces upon us to sell their CD’s instead of fitting in with the ‘Fat Albert’ world. The movies humor quickly deteriorates into a series of stale sight gags, and the never-ending use of laughing at a guy moving around in a fat suit.
All of this is surprising for me, expecting more from Bill Cosby who claims writing credits and has a significant cameo in the film. I would’ve hoped that he would’ve kept the spotlight on the Cosby kids; instead of having them support the weak and predictable after-school special storyline.
So despite the truly touching closing scene where the real life people who Bill Cosby based the ‘Fat Albert’ cast on, pay their respects to the memory of Albert Robertson, the real ‘Fat Albert’, your best bet to relive the good times, would be seek out the original TV show, now on DVD.
Thinking this movie runs like school in the summertime, no class!! for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2004 - Purple - Air Date: 12/22/04
USA - 2004