While it takes an episode to find its footing, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder does manage to recapture what made the original Disney Channel series great.
We’re in the age of reboots and revivals, whether they are on the big or small screen. The latest of which is a revival of a show that I was absolutely obsessed with as a kid, The Proud Family, which originally ran on Disney Channel from September 2001 until August 2005. This show had everything: a diverse cast of characters, it dealt with issues that young kids and teenagers faced but never went too preachy, and it featured one of the funniest national anthem performances ever.
Naturally, that meant I was really looking forward to seeing what the Disney+ revival had in store, especially with original cast members like Kyla Pratt (the voice of the show’s protagonist Penny Proud), Tommy Davidson (who voices Oscar Proud, Penny’s bumbling childish, and overprotective father), and Jo Marie Payton (the iconic voice of Suga Mama Proud, Penny’s grandmother and Oscar’s mother, who has sass like no other) returning. The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder debuted with two episodes on February 23rd and, while the first episode, “New Kids on the Block,” didn’t quite hit the mark, the second, “Bad Influence(r)” definitely feels like the original show.
The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder continues the coming-of-age journey of Penny Proud, bringing the 14-year-old and her friends and family into the present day. Penny, naturally, faces a number of challenges that are relevant to teenagers today and navigates them like only she can.
While I can’t call the first episode of the series, “New Kids on the Block,” bad, it definitely has all the pitfalls of a television pilot episode. Writer Ralph Farquhar has to reintroduce characters that we know, while also updating them and the world to fit the present day. The characters, both old and new, aren’t really the problem, the fault mostly lies with the story. The main plot of Episode 1 revolves around Penny attempting to get to know new kid Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins (Keke Palmer), who just moved to Smithville with her brother, Francis “KG” Leibowitz-Jenkins (“A Boogie” Dubose) and their adoptive fathers. Maya is an activist, who finds Penny to be a little superficial. It’s a classic tale of a new kid trying to fit in, while Penny is trying too hard to get Maya to like her. As someone that moved to a new school district for High School, I can definitely relate to Maya. However, the moral of not judging a book by its cover kind of gets lost in the shuffle and is sorted rather abruptly. It isn’t given time to really develop as it would have in the original series, mostly because this story is constantly being interrupted by short musical numbers. Yes, the original series had a musical number every now and then, but their placement in Episode 1 of Louder and Prouder is rather random, almost as if Farquhar thought they were needed to keep the attention of the kids watching.
The B plot, which revolves around Penny and her friend’s experiencing puberty, should work in tandem with the main plot’s moral and it does, but it is taken care of just as quickly. Yes, it’s great to see Penny and Co. again, and their hijinks, but “New Kids on the Block” mishandles its story and creates something that doesn’t feel like The Proud Family.
Episode 2 on the other hand showcases everything that I loved about this show growing up while also managing to feel fresh. “Bad Influence(r)” centers on the key issue of social media and what it can do to young people. Penny’s friends are captivated by an influencer known as Makeup Boy (Bretman Rock), who is very egotistical, while Penny is able to see right through him. To prove a point, she becomes a social media personality, but as her fame grows, she develops an ego of her own. The moral at work here, Don’t let yourself become so consumed by social media attention that you forget who you actually are, is classic Proud Family, and Writer L.J. Lawrence expresses it in a very effective way. We see Penny very quickly lose herself in a quest to gain more followers, and that’s something that feels all too real in this era where it can be so easy for kids and adults to get lost in the world of social media, even obsessed with the attention. While social media platforms can be a good tool, Episode 2 of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder shows audiences that they should never forget who they are beyond their screens. There’s this perfect balance between getting the moral of the story across and good jokes, which was what played a key part in making the original series so great. Viewers learned from and grew with Penny, her friends, and family, and then they got to laugh too.
Despite the rocky start that is Episode 1, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder absolutely has the potential to become something special for old fans and the next generation. The jokes are as sharp as ever, and the new animation style is pretty crisp and modern. Not to mention, as Ralph Farquhar referenced during the show’s TCA panel, things have changed in the 20 years since the original series, which will allow Louder and Prouder to take on tougher subjects without tiptoeing, as the creatives had to do with The Proud Family. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle these, considering how well they handled the topic of social media. Overall, it’s a delight to see these classic characters return, and as long as those behind the scenes balance the comedy and the coming-of-age morals, as Episode 2 did, this revival should be a ton of fun.
The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder ‘s Episodes 1 and 2 are now available to watch on Disney Plus.
WATCH THE PROUD FAMILY: LOUDER AND PROUDER: EPISODES 1 & 2:
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