The latest Phineas and Ferb movie, Candace Against the Universe, is kind of a head trip. After more than 200 episodes, a made-for-TV movie and a handful of crossover specials, the beloved animated franchise finally examines one of the show’s most important dynamics — and things are not as they seem.
Now available for Disney+ subscribers to stream, the musical event kicks off with Candace attempting to enjoy a lovely summer day, only to be weighed down by intrusive thoughts about how angry she gets when her brothers’ shenanigans go unnoticed by their blissfully ignorant mother. Unfortunately, her song of determination (“I won’t get sucked into their chaos theory!”) is interrupted by the discovery of a giant clown robot, a perfect example of the boys’ aforementioned shenanigans.
Candace can practically taste vindication when their mother pulls into the driveway, but by the time she makes it to the front door, the robot has already been swept away — the side effect of a purely coincidental confrontation between Perry the Platypus and Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Just another day in “the tri-state area.”
And in that moment, Ashley Tisdale‘s character finally breaks. “It’s not fair,” she laments to Phineas and Ferb. “Everything always works out for you. You guys are having a great summer. Every day, I get beaten down by the universe. I feel so defeated. I feel so alone.” Everyone always says how special her brothers are, but Candace wonders when it’ll be her turn to feel that way. Even darker, she begins to wonder if she isn’t special at all. The boys suddenly realize that she hasn’t been enjoying this (seemingly endless) summer as much as they have, and they don’t feel good about it. Unfortunately, Candace and her pal Vanessa are blasted into outer space and abducted by aliens before Phineas and Ferb can set things right.
OK, this is where things start to get pretty spoiler-y. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, you know what to do.
Thus begins an intergalactic rescue mission, in which a motley crew — Phineas, Ferb, Baljeet, Buford and Isabella, plus Doofenshmirtz and Perry, the latter of whom must conceal his true identity from both the good and bad guys — journey to save Candace and Vanessa. Initially, Candace’s captor (whose actual name is Super Super Big Doctor) seems nice enough; she calls Candace the “chosen one” and makes sure her every need is taken care of. But it’s soon revealed that S.S.B.D. is actually a ruthless invader who conquered her planet using mind-control spores, and because those spores are fueled by carbon dioxide, her next stop is Earth.
Upon discovering that all humans produce carbon dioxide, Candace becomes far less valuable to her captor, so she promptly reverts back to her initial state of depression. “I’m not special,” she tells Phineas and Ferb. “I’m not even a good sister! You guys are better off without me.” That’s when it happens: the boys gift her with a “World’s #1 Sister” mug that projects videos of their favorite memories together. “It’s all of the things that make you the coolest person we’ve ever met!” they tell her. “We just wish you could see yourself the way we see you.”
Inspired by her brothers’ love, Candace steps up and destroys the tri-state area’s ruthless invader, helping her work through her own little-brother issues in the process. “This hasn’t been about my brother at all,” she realizes. “It’s been about my own self-worth!” (Side note: Yes, that is Tiffany Haddish’s voice yelling “Candace!” whenever one of S.S.B.D.’s henchmen explodes.)
Speaking of little-brother issues, the gang’s mom rolls up in the midst of this chaos, finally offering Candace the opportunity to bust Phineas and Ferb one and for all — only she doesn’t! Instead, Candace tricks her into heading downtown and avoiding the madness entirely. That said, we’re curious to see how she reacts to her husband’s portal experience during the movie’s closing credits.
How Candace’s major change of heart could affect the franchise moving forward — another movie is allegedly being considered — remains anyone’s guess, but it certainly was a long time coming. Grade Candace Against the Universe in our poll below, then drop a comment with your full review.