Stretch Armstrong was one of my favorite toys when I was a kid. Like others, I played with mine so much that the glue started to pour out of it. I think it was glue — maybe it was something else. Anyway, after failed attempts to get a movie or TV show starring the characters off the ground, we now have the original animated series Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters debuting on Netflix today.
The series follows teenager Jake Armstrong-an over-worked and anti-social kid who, along with his friends Nathan Park and Ricardo Perez, is exposed to chemicals that give them super abilities. Hired by rich entrepreneur Rook to be his companies official superheroes, the three are given code names. Specifically: Jake is known as “Stretch”, as he gained super-stretching abilities; Nathan is “Wingspan” — he has the ability to grow and retract wings; and Ricardo is “Omni-Mass”, who can change his size and mass at will. Together they fight bad guys and Rook’s head of security Kane, who doubts that the group is necessary.
That is the basic setup, and it works surprisingly well. Right off the bat, the animation is pretty great. It feels like a great mix vibrant colors and classic ’90s style. There is a bit of anime thrown in for good measure, as well. The pace is fast, which is a little to the show’s detriment. They get their powers and figure out how to use them pretty quickly. It was a little strange.
What the show does at a better pace is set up the team dynamic between the three friends and the other characters who make up their world. All three have some growing pains with each other — Ricardo being a new kid who keeps cooler friends when the three are not saving the day. Jake is, of course, the main focal point, and I loved the relationship with his father. The show does a great job portraying the kind of stress that young adults face on a daily basis, even with super powers. I wanted to spend more time with everything but the super-heroics.
When they action takes place, it is refreshingly more methodical and easy to follow. There is more problem-solving than punching, and they even go out of their way to show them saving civilians during battle.
The absolute best part of the show is the voice cast. The show features the talents of Scott Menville, Steven Yeun, Ogie Banks, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Keith David, Kate Mulgrew, Walter Koenig, Nazneen Contractor, and Josh Keaton. All of them are great and bring an enthusiasm that can be felt through the screen. Especially Wheaton and the great Keith David — their scenes together are particularly good.
Besides some pacing issues in the first three episodes, I am on board to see where this goes. There will be some that will want to avoid it based on the title, but give it a shot. Stretch Armstrong deserves some eyes on him.
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