If anyone grew up in the 90s like I did, they’ll easily remember Nickelodeon. Everyone had a favorite show or two on this channel, some of which pushed the envelope enough to have parents across America complaining how the channel was corrupting their children. Probably – but these programs still had a big enough fanbase that it didn’t matter. The world was going to Hell in a handbasket, so why not laugh about it?
Enter Rocko’s Modern Life. For those unfamiliar, Rocko’s Modern Life is an animated series which parodies the ups and downs of the “modern” life in the 1990s. Rocko is an Aussie-accented wallaby who works in a comic book store in the fictional O-Town. His friends include an obese steer named Heffer and a nerdy turtle named Filburt, who accompany him on his adventures. While engaging in an never-ending litany of bodily functions and cultural gags, they learn several life lessons and encounter many harrowing situations. The show enjoyed four seasons, the last of which ended in 1996. Reruns continued well into the 2000s before dropping off the radar. The show had a good run, but its days were clearly over and buried by the 2010s – until August 9th, 2019.
Last Friday, Netflix released the 45-minute film, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling. Resurrected by the series’ original creator, Joe Murray, Static Cling brings Rocko into the 21st century and assails him with the cultural nonsense everyone has become accustomed to. Though he’s clearly a product of its time, Rocko still pays off, especially at the end of such an insane decade.
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling picks up right where it left off twenty years ago with a rocket carrying Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt into space. After spending two decades lost in the cosmos, Rocko and Filburt learn that a remote which can transport them back to Earth has been stuck to Heffer’s butt the whole time.
One push of a button brings them back to Earth, and Rocko is immediately bombarded with the drones, energy drinks, and materialistic backwardness of the 21st century. While his friends become obsessed with the latest gadgets and pressures of “going viral,” Rocko seeks the simple return of a 1990s television program that might resolve the problems of today. Along the way, Rocko learns a hard lesson about embracing the winds of change or being destroyed by them.
There’s not much to complain about here. Most of the original voice actors reprise their roles, the concept still revolves around lampooning aspects of modern culture, and the animation is spot on. Pop in any old episode, watch it back-to-back with the film, and it’ll look as fresh as it did back in the 90’s. Static Cling also comes with the crude humor that it was known for back in the day. The fart, phallic, and sexual innuendo jokes are still there – say, when Mr. and Mrs. Bighead – Rocko’s neighbors who’re frogs – are eating popsicles and Mrs. Bighead remarks about her’s, “Oh Ed, this looks like you in the morning”.
There’s a lot of nastiness to list in the 45-minute span of this film, much of which would still draw scorn from Family Values nuts. This in mind, anyone will easily notice how the humor of Rocko’s Modern Life has become relatively tame compared to the stuff people are bombarded with today. Need I remind everyone that Rocko’s favorite restaurant was once called the Chokey Chicken. Later on in the series, it was changed to the Chewy Chicken due to, well, the obvious. Today, though, Chokey Chicken will fly (it certainly does in the film) and no one will think a thing of it. Similarly to the newer episodes of Beavis & Butthead a few years ago, Rocko’s Modern Life is an outright laugh at how far everyone has lowered the bar for shock and profit. It serves as both a comedic take on how far modern life has come and a wake-up call to how far it has gone down the drain.
The only drawback Static Cling is the fact that it’s geared toward one particular audience – Rocko fans. Anyone unfamiliar with Rocko will have laughs, but a lot of the references and quirks from the series may fly over their heads. This doesn’t necessarily torpedo the film, but it probably won’t reach maximum impact with an older or even a younger crowd. This is a unique special in that it is for a unique audience – those who remember the 90s and how it was a seemingly innocent period before the onset of the 2000s.
For those who made it this far, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling is long overdue breath of fresh air with its crude, yet fair, commentary of an out-of-control world. It may have its over-the-top moments, but life tends to be crude and vulgar no matter how loud anyone gripes. So why not laugh out loud and enjoy the ride?
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Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling resurrects a character from the 1990s and delivers a lot of laughs with its take on today's environment. Though it may not fly with all audiences, it still produces enough laughter to keep it from being dull.
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