Rocko’s Modern Life is known for its satirical social commentary, but it took it one step further with the special Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling movie by actually mocking itself. Nickelodeon’s cartoons back in the 1990s got away with a lot of not-so-subtle adult jokes and themes that made them popular not only among children but grown-ups as well. In the current era of reboots, Nickelodeon is reviving some of these old properties, including Joe Murray’s Rocko’s Modern Life, which got a TV special/movie distributed by Netflix.
Titled Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, it follows the return of Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt to Earth after being in space for over 20 years. The world is obviously not what it was in the ‘90s, and the group has to adapt to the modern, digital era in many ways. The movie kept the type of humor that made the series so popular, as well as its social commentary, which was taken to another level with the characters mocking their own reboot status.
When Rocko and his friends land back in O-Town, Rocko discovers that his favorite show, The Fatheads, has been off the air for years. Meanwhile, Conglom-O enters bankruptcy after an error from Ed Bighead. In order to save both the show and the company, Rocko suggests to Ed’s boss, Mr. Dupette, that he brings back The Fatheads, as a revival would make enough money to save Conglom-O. Mr. Dupette brings the Chameleon Brothers in, who explain they can modernize the show with a CGI style, with Rocko wanting the creator and original voice cast to come back for the reboot. Sounds strangely familiar, and just like Rocko with The Fatheads, fans of Rocko’s Modern Life got the creator and the original voice cast back for the movie.
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling went as far as adding a big sign reading “reboot” on the modernized intro for the show, contrary to the original “real world” sign, as well as a subtle detail on how reboots take people’s money. The movie also takes a shot at the reaction of fans to reboots when, as anxious and intense as he has ever been, Rocko expresses his disapproval of the Fatheads revival due to the addition of a new character, even though it had what he wanted: the creator, the voice cast, and the same style.
Although Nickelodeon wasn’t bankrupt, revivals/reboots surely are profitable, and the network saw the chance to ride the wave and took it. Hey Arnold! and Invader Zim also got their reboot specials/movies with their creators and most of the original voice casts back. Although none of these got the CGI treatment (but it wouldn’t be surprising if it was considered at some point), a new Rugrats movie is set to be a live-action/CGI hybrid.
With a story that keeps the essence of the main series, the addition of some of the most memorable background characters, and hidden details everywhere, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling is one of the – if not the most – meta of all NickToons, and a very refreshing twist to the reboot formula with the sense of humor that made the series so special in the first place.