Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling Review: Rocko’s return is nostalgic, timeless, and impactful
Back in the good old days of the 90s cartoons, where the lines between adult and kids were blurred and cartoons have a distinct edge to them, there was one little Nickelodeon show that chock full of adult humor, controversy, and satirical social commentary – and, no, it’s not The Ren and Stimpy Show. Instead, I’m talking about Rocko’s Modern LIfe, a show that always stayed on top of cultural norms and found ways to break the mold from other cartoons in its heyday. Many long-time Nickelodeon fans easily recognize the cartoon from any still and it’s easily become a true cartoon classic since its end in 1996. So, when I saw that the series was making a return with a special through Netflix, I immediately knew I had to tune in. With the show always taking cultural trends and issues head on, I was interested to see if Rocko’s Modern LIfe: Static Cling could offer some food for thought for its viewers – and it does that and so much more.
Immediately, Static Cling has the tone, style, and cultural touchstones that many people would expect for the series and brings the classic characters out of the 90s perfectly. Picking up where the show creator, Joe Murray, considers to be the original series’ finale, Future Schlock, Static Cling catches viewers up with Rocko (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui), Heffer (voiced by Tom Kenny), and Filburt (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) as they are still stuck swirling in space after 20 years. However, when they finally find the remote to the Rocket stuck in Rocko’s house, the trio returns to O-Town to find that a lot has changed – including that Rocko’s favorite show, The Fatheads, has been cancelled. Now with the help of Mr. Bighead (voiced by Charlie Adler) and his son Ralph (voiced by Joe Murray), the creator of the show, to bring the show back.
It’s crazy how this special literally makes viewers nostalgic within the first few seconds and it’s a true trip back in time. The hand-drawn animation is still just as great as ever with color updates and smoother lines keeping character designs the same but giving them an eye-pleasing visual update. The original theme song can even be heard in the background throughout the episode and just hearing the original voice cast again give the episode an authentic tone with all the characters. Even just having the no holds bar cartoon violence and eye-popping animation that’s gone now was delightful to see and was reminiscent of the old-school 90s cartoons I grew up on. Honestly, Static Cling just gives the series the definitive “end” that it deserves and even the premise itself shows that this series is absolutely timeless.
The way that Static Cling tackles the 21st century is awesome, and many viewers will notice some great nods to popular trends as Rocko and company explore the new O-Town. With Filburt livestreaming to his new subscribers with a device that resembles a selfie stick, the group going to Buzzbucks, a clear nod to Starbucks, that are right next to one another, Heffer and Filburt thinking they have just gotten the latest O-Phone only for a new iteration to come out just seconds later, and even Rocko’s Dog Spunky (also voiced by Alazraqui) is obsessed with videos meant for dogs and now has an obsession with mops that he orders online – there’s a lot of great nods that viewers will recognize.
Long-time fans will even notice the return of Chokey Chicken, which was renamed to Chewy Chicken because of censorship, with some labels like that its chicken is “Organic,” “non-GMOs” and that they even have “Vegan” options and I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it. There’s even a great joke made about the strong focus on computer animation over hand-drawn animation that was great to see, and it shows how wired into today’s world the show still is.
Static Cling also touches on some incredibly important issues, both in pop culture and socially, that make this reboot incredibly important to all generations of viewers. With Rocko attempting to reboot The Fatheads, there’s actually a strong message about accepting new perspectives and ideas. That although you might not agree with people bringing back nostalgic content or changing and adding things to it, that it’s better to accept things for what they are instead of starting riots and pointing fingers at people for their ideas. There’s even a great Transgender plot with Ralph that deals with him finding acceptance from his parents and the struggles he goes through with it. Even if the special doesn’t go into great depth about it, it’s an excellent addition that perfectly aligns with the special’s themes about acceptance and change and is great to expose young viewers to. It’s an addition that’s really reminiscent of how the original was unflinching in how it tackled adult themes and it’s terrific to see that still be the case with Static Cling.
Rather than just being another reboot of a nostalgic property, Static Cling not only services as a deep look into the 21st century, but also shows why Rocko’s Modern LIfe was such an impactful show. It perfectly captures the creativity and relevancy of the show while giving fans a chance to reunite with their favorite wallaby one last time – for now. It’s truly a new gold standard for reboots, cartoon specials, and nostalgia that can’t be missed.