Animated stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb, of the Disney Channel series "Phineas and Ferb," go feature-length Friday with "Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension." It is suitable for (and recommended to) children of all ages — though much of it is meant specifically for children of a certain age, old enough to appreciate jokes that reference Georgia O'Keeffe, "The Jeffersons," Wittgenstein, Sartre and the "Fit as a Fiddle" number from "Singin' in the Rain."
Like the series it polishes and amplifies, the movie follows the pair (Vincent Martella as Phineas, Thomas Sangster as Ferb) as they fill the long days of an endless summer with the creation of large, scientifically sophisticated and often dangerous contraptions, to the perpetual annoyance of older sister Candace (Ashley Tisdale), who tries and reliably fails to "bust" them to mom. Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, sneaks off to work secretly as a secret agent, his exclusive enemy one Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (Dan Povenmire, who co-created the series with Jeff "Swampy" Marsh), an inept mad scientist attempting to achieve domination over "the tri-state area."
In the movie, which concerns a dystopian parallel world where the characters face their mirror images, the brothers learn for the first time just what Perry is up to when he disappears. The title is a joke, of course, the second dimension being where all cartoon characters live. They don't become "three-dimensional" here, in the usual sense of computer-generated roundness — a computer would not know what to do with Phineas' triangular head — but they do get some nice shading, and the whole movie is vibrant and detailed and dynamically staged. A climactic battle between an army of evil robots and the brothers' motley corps of automatons is as colorfully surreal an encounter as anything since the Blue Meanies were chased out of Pepperland. There is also a hint of emotional depth, regarding the love between animals and the people who live with them.