‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ review: a return to glorious insanity

October 4, 2019

If you have never watched “Invader Zim,” then I am sorry to inform you that you have missed out and frankly, should feel a little sad about it. Airing on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2006, the show, about an inept alien invader and the overzealous conspiracy theorist trying to expose him, was unlike most other cartoons at the time. It set itself apart with a joyously cynical tone, a grimy and brutish art style, hilariously intense and exaggerated characters and a willingness to be as strange and dark as it wanted. Watching it as a kid made me feel as if I were sneaking an Adult Swim show, and after rewatching some episodes I am honestly amazed Nickelodeon allowed it to exist for as long as it did (even if only ran for two seasons). It still holds up very well, with a sense of humor that is equal parts clever, mean, and completely random—which continues to pry laughter from my throat. It’s no wonder that, 13 years after its cancellation, “Invader Zim” has continued to maintain a strong fan base, one large enough to earn it a movie.

All is business as usual in “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus.” Zim, a soldier of the tyrannical Irken Empire who is as incompetant as he is narcissistic, once again hatches a scheme to destroy the Earth, teleporting the planet into the path of the Irken armada in order to get his bosses to notice him. As usual, Zim’s plan goes horribly wrong, and he creates a Florpus Hole, a vortex in which realities collide and explode, threatening to suck in the Earth entirely. Of course, Zim is fervently oblivious to this, and as always, it is up to Dib and his apathetic sister Gaz to foil Zim’s plans. Standard fare for the Invader Zim Series—less standard is the presence of an emotional throughline in this movie. Dib seeks to expose Zim and by doing so prove the existence of aliens to his distracted father, Professor Membrane, in order to make him proud. While it isn’t a particularly deep or emotional plot and feels strange coming from such an unsentimental show as “Invader Zim,” it works and makes for a strangely impactful and satisfying climax to a movie that threads the needle of being both fresh and nostalgic.

I usually find that movies that continue the story of a TV show come off as overly long episodes, too alike the core series to stand out. However, “Invader Zim” never had a serialized plot, so “Enter the Florpus” differentiates itself through the adherence to a cinematic plot structure. As such, this movie feels both special and like a return to form, which given how starved many have been for more “Invader Zim” is special unto itself. 

As always, Invader Zim’s austere and playfully dark sense of humor is on display. The jokes run the gambit from clever to gross to just plain weird. While the intensity and exaggerated nature of the comedy is toned down a bit and some gags run on a titch too long, the movie on the whole is hilarious and captures the feel of classic “Zim.” Speaking of Zim, he is as hilariously incompetent and brimming with unearned confidence as always. He is such a fun character and villain that I honestly wish he had a larger presence in this film. In the show, he and his nemesis Dib were given relatively equal focus. Here, Zim is securely relegated to the role of antagonist and is therefore given much less screen time and focus than the hero, Dib. This doesn’t detract from the character so much as it leaves us wanting more of Zim and his innocently insane robot servant, Gir. 

My main gripe with this movie is the color of the sky. No, seriously. “Invader Zim” is a show that takes place in a grimy dystopian future, where the people are insipid and complacent sheep, the society is a corrupted and bloated joke, and the world seems to be painted in a rainbow of dirt. The harshness that made “Invader Zim” stand out so much is somewhat missing from this film. It can still be pretty dark, but with the grotesque and totalitarian nature of the world lessened, the sky is too bright, the animation a little too smooth. 

The crux of this film centers around “World Peace Day,” and while the insane intensity of the celebration befits this world, I have trouble imagining this taking place in the same universe of the show. In the show, the elementary school was run by a shadowy organization, staffed by a demonic old crone and had a disgusting louse monster living in the basement. But still, I suppose things must change with time, and if I’ve stooped to critiquing the art style then I must truly be out of things to complain about. 

“Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus” is great, and perfectly resurrects the tone and humor of its predecessor. Watch it if you’re a fan of the series, and watch it if you aren’t because you can still enjoy it. Just make sure you watch it multiple times so Netflix has incentive to completely revive the cartoon and give it a couple more glorious seasons. “Invader Zim,” all these years later, still deserves it.

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