Stream It or Skip It?

The continuing adventures of Ivy and Bean adventurously continue with Ivy and Bean: The Ghost That Had to Go, the second of their three hour-long outings on Netflix. The first, a monumental origin story simply titled Ivy and Bean, introduced us to introvert Ivy and extrovert Bean, two wildly imaginative little girls who meet and form an utterly charming duoship surely destined to not only rule their idyllic suburban cul-de-sac, but also their school, their town and probably the world. This chapter in their saga finds them attempting to control the teachers’ bathroom at school, which is kind of a long story, so let’s get into it.

The Gist: First things first: You don’t need to have seen the debut Ivy and Bean to enjoy this one, but it’d explain why Ivy (Keslee Blalock) has a dead frog in a baggie in the fridge. Her mom (Jaycie Dotin) is perfectly fine with that, by the way, which may tell us something about their relationship, if you’re into reading into things. It has been established that Ivy is now BFFs with her neighbor Bean (Madison Skye Validum), and they will do their best to remain inseparable in school. Bean does nothing as normal people would, so they enter the school via a backdoor to the teachers’ restroom, and it’s there that Ivy sees old pipes rattling by the ceiling and wispy things emerging from the vents, and deduces that they’re ghosts.

It also has been established that the figments of our protagonists’ imaginations are frequently visually dramatized, so there’s a good chance that the ghosts do not indeed exist. But that doesn’t stop Ivy from concocting a plan to eradicate them using spells from a kinda creepy spell book and potions consisting of strange ingredients from her inventory of dead frogs and the like. Eventually there will be a scene in which she dons a cape and goth-girl lipstick and eye makeup in order to cast said spells, and in that moment one may come to the conclusion that she’s the most adorable devil-worshiping occultist in the history of television.

But let’s not get too far ahead of the plot. It has to reintroduce us to Bean’s older sister and nemesis, Nancy (Lidya Jewitt), who’s the Smithers to this series’ Mr. Burns, Principal Noble (Jane Lynch!), who loves fancy shoes like Scooby and Shaggy love doing brainmelting bong hits. Apropos of nearly nothing, we also meet Ivy and Bean’s teacher, Ms. Aruba-Tate (Sasha Pieterse), who exacerbates character development by frequently condemning Ivy and Bean to the timeout rug – notably, something Ivy never had to do before she met Bean. Ivy determines that a lock of Nancy’s hair, nipped after midnight, is necessary for her unholy ghost-damning concoction, setting off a series of events that includes its share of toilet-based comedy, quite literally.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If the first Ivy and Bean was like an estrogenic take on Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Ghost That Had to Go adds a Captain Underpants-ish wrinkle by establishing a wacky-principal antagonist.

Performance Worth Watching: Pour one out for Lynch, who endures a scene in which she farts several times while not realizing children are within smellshot in order to once again play an intimidating character who exists in the sweet spot between hilarious and menacing.

Memorable Dialogue: Adults watching this series with their kids are bound to appreciate the highly relatable truisms the parent characters occasionally utter. Example: Nancy reallyreallyreally wants her ears pierced, but her mother (Marci T. House) won’t let her. “Honey, I just want a little bit of you not to grow up so fast. And I’m going for your earlobes for now,” she says.

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: The Ghost That Had to Go features exactly zero closeups of moldering dog dukey compared to its predecessor’s too many, and swaps out the meanie-neighbor-lady character played by Nia Vardalos for a solid helping of Jane Lynch. That’s a net improvement so far.

But it also clutters up the proceedings with a few of Ivy and Bean’s boring classmates, and stages its noisy climactic sequence in the can, where we watch in horror as all the characters don’t seem as grossed out by the idea of overflowing toilet water as they should be. So perhaps the assertion being made with the Ivy and Beans is, hey, girls can appreciate grossout humor too! Which is a dubious attempt at equal-opportunity gender-demographic entertainment, because I’m sure a lot of us believe the boys can have their worms and gagging noises.

The debut special balanced the (literal) dog crap with the undeniable cuteness of two kids making unlikely friends and indulging their imaginative impulses, often at the expense of Nancy, who’s sort of sympathetic, but also sort of an egocentric goody-goody who could use a mudball in the face on occasion. That stuff is less abundant in Ghost, but still present among the chaos and mayhem. So a rough final tally? Second verse, pretty much the same as the first – and so far, so good.

Our Call: STREAM IT. The Ivy and Bean series glorifies friendship and imagination – and mischief, which sets it apart from the usual glossy Disney Channel-type fodder for the tween/grade-schooler demo. It’s not smashing any molds, but it’s fun and amusing and lightly nonconforming.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

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