After 23 years away, Rocko, Heffer, Filburt, and the Bigheads have made their return, and it’s a welcome one. The Netflix special, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling has two, sometimes seemingly contradictory goals, and it succeeds with both: Heaping loads of nostalgia upon fans of the classic Nickelodeon show, and delivering a message about embracing change and being able to leave a bit of the past behind.
Static Cling begins with Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt returning to O-Town after being stranded in outer space for the last two decades. Fil and Heff are able to easily adapt to the late 2010’s and its culture (with its rapidly advancing technology, gritty superhero movies, coffee shops on every corner, etc), but Rocko finds himself struggling. All he wants to do is to watch his favorite 90’s TV series, The Fatheads, but it’s been long-cancelled and re-runs are no longer airing. To remedy this, Rocko decides to find the creator of his beloved series, Ralph Bighead (who has a reveal in Static Cling that’s handled fairly well, but not perfectly), and get the youngest Bighead’s help with bringing The Fatheads back.
Something that immediately triggered waves of nostalgia was the returning cast. From Rocko to Dr. Hutchison to the Bigheads, every returning character is portrayed by the same voice actor that brought them to life in the original series, and it helped me fall right back into the absurd world I’d spent so much time away from. Even though O-Town has been completely redesigned, we still get nods to memorable places like the comic shop Filburt gave us a lesson on page-turning etiquette in and Heffer’s favorite, Soylent Green-ish restaurant Chewy Chicken. There’s even a fun remix of the show’s classic opening as well.
What didn’t hit that nostalgic nerve was a couple of jokes that, while inline with the series, felt immature. I know, Rocko’s Modern Life is mainly a show for kids, but I felt it was necessary to mention that the mix of mature themes and booger gags didn’t work quite as well for me now that I’m in my 30’s.
That doesn’t mean Static Cling isn’t funny most of the time though. In fact, I laughed quite a lot during its 45-minute runtime. Minus some of the body humor and grosser gags, the zany, over the top style of comedy remains about as entertaining as it was 20 years ago. I was laughing out loud within the first 90 seconds, and that isn’t an exaggeration.
Also, huge, HUGE props for those scenes making fun of computer animation and corner-cutting studios.
Along with most of the humor, the overall theme behind Static Cling and the way it’s presented are great. Throughout the special, our favorite characters learn the importance of accepting change in life, and that it’s okay to let go of parts of your past. This obviously isn’t new ground for most of us, but it’s still fun to watch the moral of the story unfold through the bizarre lense of Rocko’s Modern Life.
I wouldn’t recommend Static Cling to anyone who didn’t grow up watching Rocko’s Modern Life, but I certainly think it’s worth watching for those who have fond memories of the awkward wallaby and the other denizens of O-Town.