Review by Cole Groth
Legacy sequels are all the rage this year, and the Spider-Man: No Way Home-ification of the Blue’s Clues franchise is one of the most interesting film ideas of the year. Blue’s Big City Adventure takes the rebooted franchise to Blue’s most extensive journey yet: New York City. While it’s a wildly uneven experience for kids and adults, it’s hard not to enjoy the cheesy nostalgia of seeing some favorite childhood characters return. With a quick pace and plenty of fun songs, this is just as fun as the show was, although it doesn’t feel enough like an expansion to be a full-fledged film adaptation.
Blue’s Big City Adventure opens up like a standard episode of Blue’s Clues & You!, with Josh (Josh Dela Cruz) and his ragtag crew of Blue, Mailbox, Mr. Salt, and Mrs. Pepper, among others. Josh is awaiting a letter for an audition with Rainbow Puppy (Brianna Bryan) to get onto a Broadway play. His antics at the beginning are identical to a standard episode, except we’re treated to an entertaining musical number. The grand scale of Josh and Blue’s adventure isn’t the only difference this time; it’s also a musical! Thankfully, Josh Dela Cruz is a great singer, and each song is educational and fun.
Fortunately, Josh receives his invitation, which sends him off to the Big Apple. Unfortunately, he’s forgotten his Handy Dandy Notebook; oh no! Josh is lost without his notebook, so it’s up to the audience to find clues that Blue leaves around the city and get Josh to his audition. While on the way, we find Steve, Blue’s Clues’s first host. It’s lovely to see him again, and while the target audience of younger kids may not recognize him, he’s a sight for sore eyes for young adults like myself. Steve (Steve Burns) is just as warm of a presence as he was over twenty years ago, and the way he interacts with the audience is lovely. We reunite with Joe (Donovan Patton), Blue’s Clues’s second host. They always keep a neutral eye when interacting with the audience. They never look down on the children watching this, and minor details like this make the show and this movie great for children. Throughout the film, we cut between Josh’s adventure, Steve and Joe’s adventure, and the auditions that Rainbow Puppy and another judge (BD Wong) are holding. These auditions are a fun interlude between the action but sometimes become repetitive.
It’s a shame that this wasn’t more accessible to the older audience. There’s too much juxtaposition between the childish segments with Josh and the more mature story that Steve and Joe follow. When following Josh, the special effects are jarring and look like they need work. While it’s similar to the show, there’s not much of a reason to advertise this as a movie when it isn’t trying to look cinematic. On the other hand, Steve and Joe’s segments are expertly shot and much easier to follow for adults. The noir aesthetic that director Matt Stawski applies is complex and original but ultimately creates an empty feeling because it’s immediately disregarded when we return to Josh. This criticism isn’t to say that it doesn’t work as a kid’s film because, in that vein, it works rather well. It’s simply disappointing that there couldn’t have been a more even blend of entertainment for adults and kids. This rough mix results in a largely uneven viewing experience that isn’t quite rewarding as it could’ve been.
Many comparisons can be made to 2021’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, which took the kids’ show and brought it to the big screen. Unlike that film, however, there’s not much of an effort to make this feel like a cinematic experience. The special effects are incredibly weak, and there’s too much reliance on green screen, which takes away from the viewing experience. The franchise initially pulled in over $1 Billion in merchandise sales, so why can’t this look more professional?
While it’s easy to complain about the weak special effects and a predictable story, there’s no way to hate this movie. It maintains a lot of the heart of both the original and new series and moves quickly, keeping children entertained the whole time. Blue’s Big City Adventure is a fun trip down memory lane jam-packed with cheesy yet endearing songs. Josh, Steve, Joe, and Blue are a great squad. This movie might not stand the test of time as well as the original series did, but it’s a fine adaptation for its intended audience.
Blue’s Big City Adventure releases exclusively on Paramount+ on November 18th.