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Things Only Adults Notice In Phineas And Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe

Over 104 days of summer vacation (and four seasons lasting a whopping eight years on the Disney Channel), young inventors Phineas and Ferb built loads of contraptions for themselves and their friends, often driving their older sister Candace bananas. The high-strung teen might have enjoyed some of their escapades, but she frequently wanted their mom to bust her brothers for putting themselves in jeopardy. Their parents never got the goods on the boys because in every episode, their secret-agent pet platypus, Perry, foiled some shenanigans involving the ambitious but inept Dr. Heinz "Doof" Doofenshmirtz that vaporized the boys' inventions. 

The feature-length film Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe arrives five years after the show's finale, but has that same screwball aesthetic — and it's a delightfully wacky thank-you to fans. Starring the original voice cast, the film picks up during that summer, with Candace depressed that she's not special like her brothers and feeling like the universe is against her. She's proven partly correct when aliens abduct her and her friend Vanessa Doofenshmirtz, Doof's daughter. Naturally, Phineas, Ferb, their friends, Doof, and even Perry (in disguise as Agent P) race to the rescue. 

Phineas and Ferb has always operated on a couple of levels, with rapid-fire dialogue, laugh-out-loud antics, and wit that sometimes sailed over smaller viewers' heads. Here are a few things in Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe that those who grew up with the show are bound to notice as adults. Spoilers ahead!

A groovy kind of backup

In the opening moments of Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, Candace rides her bicycle while singing about how it's "Such a Beautiful Day" — that is, as long as her brothers don't ruin it with a growth elixir, a shrinking submarine, fighting treehouse robots, giant rollercoasters, or anything in between. While she sings (and swings from one mood to another), a melodious trio in the background provides accompaniment and harmony. Phineas and Ferb has a couple of recurring bands, notably Bowling for Soup (who sang the original theme song) and Love Händel, the pop-rock trio whom their parents adored when they were dating. 

These three '60s-looking fellas don't have a specific name, but they've appeared on the show before; you may remember them from the season 1 episode "It's About Time," singing the tune "My Nemesis" about the love-hate relationship between Agent P and Doof. Veteran musician Danny Jacob, who has worked with Ray Charles, George Michael, and Bette Midler, voices the lead singer, but in terms of looks, the trio brings to mind '60s hitmakers the Lovin' Spoonful — a band young viewers will almost certainly be unfamiliar with. In real life, not only is Jacob is the composer of the Phineas and Ferb score, he's also responsible for co-writing many of its comedic songs.

An irresistible power vacuum

A long-running gag on Phineas and Ferb revolves around how Doof wants to humiliate his brother Roger, the handsome and successful mayor of Danville (located within the unspecified Tri-State area). Doof has tried several gadgets (or "inators") to get back at Roger for being everything he's not, but since the doc also can't resist a self-destruct button, his schemes typically end with a bang. In Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, Perry as Agent P starts the film in fisticuffs with Doof's robotic version of everyone's favorite undercover platypus. 

Doof knocks Agent P into a bunch of cleaning supplies (including Maple Sol, no doubt a cousin of Pine-Sol), then explains his full plan. His Power Vacuum-inator will zap the mayor's mansion into lint, then vacuum up the lint, "thereby creating an actual 'power vacuum' for me to fill," as Doof puts it, complete with air quotes. Nature abhors a vacuum, but Agent P is pretty handy with a real one, knocking the Power Vacuum-inator off-target while Doof pats himself on the back for using vacuum as both a transitive verb and an abstract concept.

One heck of a wifi signal

Not much surprises Phineas and Ferb, who have been to other dimensions and even space before, so as the alien pod launches with Candace and Vanessa inside, the boys head to their computer. Ferb quickly enlarges a smartphone photo that he took of the receding ship, zooms in on the license plate, and runs it on the "Intergalactic Web." This instantly tracks the craft to the planet Feebla-Oot in the Vroblok Cluster. Score one for the wifi at the Flynn-Fletcher house! 

While adult viewers grin at (and envy) their internet speed, Doof shows that, as bumbling as he can be, he's no slouch with online searching, either. Once he and the kids meet up, Doof shares a selfie that Vanessa posted to social media from inside the spacecraft, proving that while some phones drop calls from one end of a building to another, Doof and Vanessa have tech that can connect across a galaxy.

Queen of cool

While the pod rockets along, Candace predictably freaks out while the ever-cool Vanessa finds another way to pass the time (beyond posting space selfies, of course). She sits on the floor and bounces a ball against the spacecraft's interior. Film buffs will recognize this as an homage to the classic 1963 adventure film The Great Escape, in which star Steve McQueen, himself an ultra-cool actor of his day, bounces a ball against the wall of a German prison camp while being locked in "the Cooler." McQueen's character had a mitt, not bare hands, but the moment is so iconic that everyone from Maggie in her playpen on The Simpsons to The West Wing and even Chicken Run has imitated it. Vanessa is apparently the only one to try this in space, where the lack of gravity would make the ball float, but the rules have never applied to Vanessa anyway.

A flip wipe and Star Trek lite

Once they've tracked where Candace and Vanessa are heading, Phineas and Ferb ask their friend Baljeet for help. Baljeet built a portal to Mars in season 1's "Unfair Science Fair" and "Unfair Science Fair Redux (Another Story)," accidentally transporting Candace there, so he instantly thinks another portal is the way to travel. Building one could take a while. "It would take at least a montage," he tells the boys at first, then adds in the next scene, "I stand corrected. It only took a flip wipe."

Aside from referencing filmmaking techniques, Baljeet brings up another Easter egg. When Phineas and Ferb knocked, he'd been ready to watch a marathon of Space Adventure, his favorite sci-fi TV show that's a wink at Star Trek. Space Adventure has a USS Minotaur instead of a USS Enterprise, but the same level of special effects, with the crew on the bridge walking with their hands in the air as the camera tilts to show turbulence. Space Adventure appeared in Phineas and Ferb's season 2 episode "Nerds of a Feather," when fans like Baljeet ran afoul of devotees of the fantasy franchise Stumbleberry Finkbat. Incidentally, the special effects wiz for both of those fictional series is Clive Addison, voiced by proud nerd and writer-director Kevin Smith.

What, no lucky numbers?

Phineas and Ferb loves puns and wordplay, and one funny exchange occurs after the kids activate Baljeet's portal. Phineas, Ferb, Baljeet, Buford, and Isabella activate the device, thinking they'll land on another planet, but instead, they wind up inside Doof's headquarters. Here, Doof explains how he also built a portal to reach Vanessa, having seen her social media post from space. Baljeet checks his calculations and realizes that because Feebla-Oot has an ion barrier, their portals couldn't reach the planet but connected to each other. 

"Oh, so getting there by portal is astrologically impossible," Doof says, eager to show off his smarts.

"You mean astronomically," Baljeet corrects.

"No, I mean astrologically. Here, look at my horoscope," Doof says, pointing out that he's a Virgo.

Baljeet reads the horoscope aloud: "You will be unable to reach a planet via portal due to it being astronomically impossible," he emphasizes.

Doof crosses his arms. "OK, so I guess we're both right."

Alexa, get me outta here!

The creators of Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe take a few digs at virtual assistants that misinterpret voice commands once the pod containing Candace and Vanessa docks inside a larger ship. Candace at first is excited that the computer understands English and translates a map of the ship for her. "Oh, great! We have something like this at home," Candace says. "Computer, how do we escape from the ship?"

"Adding thin chips to your shopping list," the computer replies.

"No, no, no, no. I said, 'Escape the ship!'" Candace says.

"Playing 'Cape Lip' by lil' Gorbonox," the computer says, cranking up electronic music. 

Candace groans. "On second thought, this is exactly like the one we have at home."

Fortunately, the girls can fall back on reading the map, provided Candace doesn't get distracted. "Engine room, sickbay... Ooh, smoothie bar!" Candace mutters.

"Focus!" Vanessa snaps.

"Sorry. Restrooms, science lab... Oh, escape pods!" Candace says, pressing a button to open a hatch near their feet.

Imagine if he asked for directions

Phineas and Ferb's older fans appreciate how the show pokes fun at absurdity, whether through names such as the Googolplex Mall or pop culture phenomena (such as the toy craze over an "inaction figure" of Perry in season 1's "Toy to the World"). Candace Against the Universe takes a moment to celebrate intelligent and qualified women who find their abilities questioned just because a man brags he can do better. It happens once the kids, Doof, and an undetected Agent P arrive on Feebla-Oot thanks to Doof's "Galactic Travel-inator" (er, spaceship). Vanessa and Candace are both here, too, after a mix-up at the escape pods. The kids suspect that Candace must be at the palace because of its size ... and how it emits a "strange, ominous tone" whenever they look at it. The gang, with Agent P furtively trailing behind, sets out through the foliage, and Isabella soon leads the way. But then Doof balks at the efficient Fireside Girl: "Who put you in charge, young lady? I'm the grown-up." 

A natural leader, Isabella proudly unfurls her sash of patches for navigating, among other things. None of that matters to Doof, who argues in song that he's older and has more experience in "adulting." Isabella and Ferb mention that isn't a verb, but Baljeet is convinced. "He sounds authoritative," Baljeet says, right before Doof marches off a cliff.

The art of escape

At the palace, Candace meets the alien leader Super Super Big Doctor (Ali Wong of Always Be My Maybe), who proclaims that Candace is "the Chosen One." While she's elated to be special, Candace is also suspicious, wondering if the friendly alien actually plans to cook her or something else equally sinister. Super Super Big Doctor reassures her with ice cream, girl talk, and a manicure. Meanwhile, Phineas, Doof, and pals discover some imprisoned aliens from an extremely shy race and free them. The released prisoners hail from an underground city named Cowardalia, where they introduce the Earthlings to their leader, who asks about their escape. 

"Did you hide under a tarp? Did you cower under some boxes? Did you stand very still and pretend to be modern art?" 

No, one of the Cowards replies. "Although Brizak over there is an excellent example of cubism."

While not quite a Picasso — and a lot less abstract — Brizak certainly is in the same style, and friendly, too. The kind Cowards soon confirm that Super Super Big Doctor has some not-so-nice plans ahead.

Back to the beginning

Phineas and Ferb likes to nudge fans with self-aware references to the characters being in a cartoon (like their comment on hearing that "strange, ominous tone" whenever they look at the alien palace). Once Super Super Big Doctor reveals her true colors and takes Candace to invade Earth, the film itself jets off on a wildly clever tangent. Phineas, Ferb, Baljeet, Buford, and Isabella stow away aboard the alien leader's spaceship, leaving behind Doof, who still wants to find Vanessa. The ship flies faster than the kids can fathom, reaching warp two, which Baljeet explains is twice the speed of light. "What will that be like?" Isabella asks. 

"I read a theory that when you exceed the speed of light," Baljeet replies, "reality, the very nature of your existence, begins breaking down to its primal essence, all the way back to its source." 

As he speaks, the animation loses color and reverts to the original storyboards for the film, while the creators of the series, Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, pitch that sequence in live action. Once we return to the movie, Phineas and friends stare at the audience for a few seconds, dumbfounded. "We should never speak of this again," Ferb says.

Candace shoots and scores

Back on Feebla-Oot, Vanessa has tamed a space dragon and winds up swooping in to catch Doof, who has wandered off another cliff, and Agent P, who tried to stop his fall. While they discuss how to get home, Candace on Earth escapes from Super Super Big Doctor's clutches. She reconciles with her brothers as the invasion begins at a ballpark, then sets out to get back at the "universe." Candace had thought the aliens were kind in part because they'd gush over receiving compliments and gifts, so she grabs the ballpark's T-shirt cannon and fires away. 

"You get a shirt! And you get a shirt!" Candace shouts with glee, imitating the moment in 2004 when talk-show host Oprah Winfrey famously gifted every audience member at one of her tapings with a new Pontiac. Later, Oprah told TV Guide how she'd initially given ten teachers new cars, then teased her audience that she had one more car left. Staffers handed everyone a small gift box, and Oprah explained that whoever found a key inside had won that alleged final car. As each person opened the box and saw a key, several people in the crowd screamed in excitement, causing Oprah to call out, "You get a car! And you get a car!" for those too stunned to realize what had actually happened.

Ballpark Easter eggs

As if the whole movie weren't already a Valentine for Phineas and Ferb fans, the battle at the ballpark has a number of Easter eggs in the surrounding billboards. Those with sharp eyes (or those who hit the pause button) will recognize Ducky Momo, the lead character of a Japanese children's TV show for which Candace collects memorabilia, and the Giant Floating Baby Head that randomly appears in several episodes. Also in the background are ads for Victory Gum (which Buford has in Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension); Lake Nose, the resort where Phineas, Ferb, and Candace meet the adorable Lake Nose Monster in season 2; Skiddley Whiffers, the cross between Monopoly and Mousetrap that the kids played a giant version of in season 3; and the particularly amusing "Mind Share Vacations." 

While all of this evokes the sci-fi classic film Total Recall, it's also a callback to the season 4 episode "Mind Share," during which a pop-up ad on the Intergalactic Web convinces Phineas and Ferb to build a "sophisticated device" for just such a getaway. Sure enough, the ad is a trick from a batch of imprisoned space criminals who trade minds with Phineas and friends, sparking a spoof of The Shawshank Redemption while Candace saves the day.