With all eyes focused on the continuing decline of its theatrical animation, Disney has quietly carved out a solid TV franchise with Kim Possible. The Villian Files marks the third DVD compilation release for the teenage girl spy who has beaten the odds to prove that a female lead can successfully anchor an action-oriented cartoon series. Can she stand up to Nickelodeon’s reigning kings of cable? Well, as Kim would say, “Anything’s possible for a Possible.”
Then again, some possibilities are highly improbable. Kim Possible is fun and even funny on occasion, but really is a lightweight overall. The Disney influence is palpably restrictive. None of that irreverent or borderline subversive Spongebob or Fairly Oddparents humor is to be found here. In fact, even the similarly modest Jimmy Neutron manages more zingers. Kim‘s writers do a decent job of setting up potentially interesting situations within the constraints, but they end up with a show largely bound by convention.
Kim Possible is a likeable enough, if not exceptionally interesting, lead. She’s played half as an indomitable heroine, and half as an insecure schoolgirl. Young fans will doubtless be able to relate to the classic pitfalls of school life she encounters. One fears they may also relate to the annoying valley girl speak Kim occasionally lapses into, dishing out such gems as, “Do you want to come with?”
Ron Stoppable is Kim’s hapless best friend and sidekick, although probably far more valuable in the former role. He exists primarily for occasionally successful comic relief, making a fool of himself any which way he can. It’s hinted that his feelings for Kim may be more than friendly, but that possibility is not explored on this DVD. His pet Rufus, a small creepy looking pink creature seemingly inspired by either the chestbursters from Alien or something entirely inappropriate for a kid’s show, always accompanies Ron and often steps in to to save the day à la Inspector Gadget‘s Brain.
As for the featured villains, they are a bit on the generic side. Bumbling mad scientist Drakken and his catty henchwoman Shego have the odd nice moment as they bicker back and forth, but they offer little that’s new. Mad golfer Duff Killigan is a one-dimensional caricature, interesting only because he sounds like a malevolent Scrooge McDuck. The best of the lot are easily the consummate gentleman thief Señor Senior Sr. and his apathetic slacker son Señor Senior Jr. Sr. is expertly voiced by Ricardo Montalban of Fantasy Island and Star Trek and his suave repartee in the face of the general goofiness around him is highly entertaining. He eloquently defends his archetypical Bond-villain behavior as tradition when Jr. vexingly persists in pointing out its comically irrational nature.
The Villain Files contains four episodes spotlighting these eccentric personalities from Kim’s rogue gallery. In “Blush,” Drakken takes a page from teen magazines and sprays Kim with a gas that causes her to disintegrate when she feels embarrassment. While Ron travels to South America to find an antidote, Kim goes on a date with school heartthrob Josh while Drakken and Shego follow along to try to humiliate her into extinction.
“Animal Attraction” has Kim reluctantly caught up in the Animology craze, which defines one’s personality and soul mate, sweeping her school. Meanwhile Señor Senior Sr. steals a freezing machine from a frozen food magnate to get revenge on the Billionaire Club for expelling him. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
In “Number One,” Kim’s cheerleader rival Bonnie challenges her to sell chocolates to raise money for the squad. Meanwhile Kim teams up with 007 wannabe Agent Will Do to find an expert horticulturist who’s been kidnapped by Duff Killigan to help him turn the globe into one big golf course.
Finally, “Showdown at the Crooked D” sees Kim’s family visit her uncle’s ranch in Montana, where she finds her cousin Joss has become her number one fan and then some. Nearby a meeting of the world’s top geniuses is going on, and Drakken, peeved at not being invited, tricks them into wearing “silly hats” that turn them into babbling fools.
The show’s animation is good enough for TV but nothing exceptional. Apart from the bizarre Rufus and wild-eyed Drakken, the design work is rather typical. The unassuming soundtrack seems largely inspired by the Mission Impossible score and married awkwardly with a hip hop opening song.
Most of Kim’s comedy fails to register, but there are a few chuckles here and there. When Drakken turns to reveal his evil plan to his captives, only to find Kim has fled the coop for the nth time, he complains, “I haven’t even gotten into my gloating yet for Pete’s sake!” The “embarrassment ninjas” are a nice touch, complete with hand buzzer and face staining binoculars. When Kim and Ron jump out to confront Señor Senior Sr. and Jr., the elder instantly identifies his arch nemeses, but the younger shrugs, “Yeah, I’m not so good with the faces.” Later Sr. explains to Jr. that a good villain always leaves the hero when he’s about to die because, “It would be bad form just to loll about waiting for it.” Ron says disgustedly that no one can sell chocolate to Agent Do, only to turn around to see Rufus succeed. Ron explains this away: “Except him, but he’s naked.”
The Villain Files extras are pretty weak, but then one can’t expect much from a cheap TV show compilation. The Villain House Party masquerades as a game, but is really just a bio section in which you click on the various villains to see information that you already know from watching the disc. The music video “It’s Just You” by LMNT (Loser Mutant Ninja Teenyboppers? – anyway their “dancing” is so stiff they’d “get served” by Al Gore) combines clips from the show with a hologram of the three nitwits singing to a couple of kids in their home. It’s fairly generic, but catchy enough for Kim.
Kim Possible: The Villain Files is a good selection of episodes that will probably satisfy Kim’s fans. However, if you’ve never seen the show, there’s no real need to check out this DVD. It simply isn’t funny enough to compete for attention with Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network’s finest. On the other hand, if they ever make another Austin Powers movie, Señor Senior Sr. would be sure to steal the show. That guy’s a real talent. I didn’t want to say anything in front of Ron, Kim, but maybe you should think about someone a little more mature.