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Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling (2019)

Twenty years (ish) after being launched into space, Rocko the wallaby and his friends Heffer and Filburt (and Spunky the dog) finally find a way back to Earth. But in the years since they've been gone, the world has changed. How will Rocko learn to adjust to life in the 21st century?

Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling is a sequel special to Joe Murray's original Nickelodeon series which ran from 1993-1996. The film was commissioned as part of Nick's program of revivals of their classic Nicktoons, but for some reason was (along with the Invader Zim special) sold to Netflix rather than premiered on the network.

If the primary purpose of these revivals is to recreate the originals, then Static Cling in an unqualified success. The show looks exactly the same (although the animation has been given an HD and widescreen upgrade) and feels just like a double-length helping of the original. It's like it never went away. The original voice cast is back (where possible) so it sounds the same too. And for many fans of the original, that will be enough.

However, in other aspects, the results are more mixed. In its basic premise, Static Cling shows how the central characters deal with how the world has changed in their absence. Characteristically, Rocko struggles, while Filburt and Heffer quickly adapt. This sets up jokes based on life in the modern world- as you would expect.

The problem is that this stuff all feels rather wrote and obvious (everyone's obsessed by their phones, social media and coffee!) and doesn't really have anything fresh to add. Ironically, it also feels rather dated, like the same jokes could have been made ten years ago. This is definitely the revival's weakest aspect.

Beyond this, there's something much smarter happening. One of the central plotlines sees Rocko trying to arrange a revival of his favourite cancelled TV show (The Fatheads). It's a clever (and very meta) way to riff on nostalgia and the importance of accepting change. Which is a pretty bold gambit for a sequel to a cartoon from two decades ago.

It also leads to the special's most unexpected and ground-breaking plotline. The introduction of a transgender character is handled with respect and warmth in a matter-of-fact way while not feeling out-of-place with the show's tone.

If you've never seen the original series then Static Cling will likely still work as a standalone story but this is definitely aimed at the fans. It's chock full of references, cameos, nods and callbacks that will reward rewatches and keep them happy.

Some of its jokes may be stuck in the past but Static Cling's outlook is definitely forward-facing. It feels like a satisfying coda to the series, although it could also be a launchpad for a return to O-Town again sometime in future- and that would not be unwelcome.

FORMAT:Streaming  FROM: Nickelodeon/ Netflix RATING:PG RUNNING TIME :45 minutes 

IN A NUTSHELL: Static Cling is an enjoyable blast from the past that isn't afraid to move with the times.