Satirical ‘Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling’ Enters 21st Century on Netflix
Charged with crude humor and sharp satire, Rocko’s Modern Life was a staple of Nickelodeon’s animated lineup in the mid-90s. The edgy cartoon worked well alongside the channel’s other successful shows, Rugrats, Doug and Hey Arnold. However, the lives of those three shows were extended with full-length feature films. Rocko’s Modern Life wrapped up in 1996, leaving its audience simply with nostalgic re-runs. That is, until a new 45-minute feature, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, found its way to Netflix.
20 years have passed since Rocko (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui), Heffer (voiced by Tom Kenney) and Filburt (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) ended up into space. Finally finding the remote to send them back home, the trio crash-land back into O-Town. Mirroring society itself, O-Town has changed drastically from 1996 to present day. Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling has no problem whatsoever poking fun at today’s contemporary conveniences. Starbucks, iPhones, food trucks, Amazon and sensational media coverage are all easy pickings, albeit all in harmless fun.
For Rocko, these new changes are a bit overwhelming. Coming off a different generation, the talking wallaby only wants to watch his favorite raunchy cartoon, The Fatheads. Like Rocko’s Modern Life itself, no new episodes have been made since the 90s. The show’s creator, Ralph Bighead, has been MIA for years while on the path of self-discovery. Rocko, Heffer and Filburt venture out to locate the missing creator. Rocko hopes a revival of The Fatheads will fix O-Town’s current economic crisis and offer some personal nostalgia.
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Creator Joe Murray hasn’t missed a beat in the past 23 years. Besides the obvious HD upgrade and 21st century commentary, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling pays ample respect to its episodic 90s roots. While 45 minutes may seem brief, Murray makes the most of the run time without resorting to full-length animated feature territory for the big screen. Packed and precise, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling has plenty to comment on without rushing the overall story. Modern-day cynicism is thoughtfully explored without running the danger of drowning in cynicism itself. And Millennials who grew up on the show in the 90s will appreciate the not-so-subtle mature humor under an adult lens. Though one has to ask how naming a fictional restaurant “Chokey Chicken” slipped through the cracks of Nickelodeon after all these years.
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling thematically embraces its past, while realizing change isn’t so bad either. Partway through, Rocko, Heffer and Filburt reunite with a neighbor after 20 years who has since transitioned. While the show was centered around rude humor, Murray handles the transgender character (who he also voices) with great respect. The trio are surprised at first, then respond with “Wow, cool.” Her parents handle the change a bit differently once the gang returns to O-Town. However, it’s rapidly resolved with equal respect to the character. It’s one piece of the film’s overall puzzle as change has affected all of the main characters in one manner or another.
After a two-decade hiatus, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling pushes forward as a rewarding new chapter for its maturing fan base. This is the Rocko’s Modern Life we embraced as a kid, yet still appreciate through grown-up eyes.