Making the Grades
Arnold (Spencer Klein) and his friends live in a seemingly idyllic old inner city neighborhood where various ethnic groups happily co-exist and the streets are safe for kids even at 2 a.m. But all that changes when Mr. Scheck (Paul Sorvino), a money hungry developer, and his unscrupulous employee (Dan Castellaneta) make plans to knock down the community and erect a shiny new "mall-plex", a proposal that city hall appears to have approved without any input from the local residents.
While the adults wring their hands and bemoan the situation, Arnold and Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith) along with the help of a mysterious, cloaked character (Francesca Smith) decide to take matters into their own hands. But when their petitions and street concert fail to get the mayor's attention, they resort to less conventional methods. Outfitted with some high tech gadgets, the fourth graders board a city bus and head for Scheck's skyscraper office while Grandpa and his gang pack a stash of stolen explosives in the underground sewer to stop the bulldozers. With the minutes on Scheck's giant clock ticking down, Arnold and Gerald search for a historical document that will halt the demolition crew and save their homes from being razed.
Hey Arnold! The Movie is based on the Saturday morning cartoon hero with the football shaped head. On a regular basis, he solves neighborhood dilemmas and deals with the amorous intentions of Helga G. Pataki (Francesca Smith). Like the weekly installments, this film is full of precocious child champions and devoid of competent adult role models.
Arnold's desire to help solve his community's problem is commendable. Unfortunately none of the methods he uses in the end are legal or within reach of any real elementary-aged citizen who wants to be involved in change. Along with some cartoon violence, other concerns include employee theft, a slightly scary scene at the mortuary and a butcher who blows his nose on his apron.
However, with some careful parental guidance, Arnold's adventures may be one way to spark a discussion on civic participation among the cartoon crowd.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hey Arnold! The Movie.
Could city hall approve the new development without input from Arnold’s community when most of the businesses and homes in the area appear to be owned? Would the contractors be able to start knocking down buildings while the residents were still in them?
How did the opening scenes of the movie portray an idealist view of the neighborhood? How did that compare with how the community looked after the explosion?