It is very late in the twenty-first century and George Jetson (voiced by George O'Hanlon) lives some miles above the surface of the Planet Earth with his family, wife Jane (Penny Singleton), daughter Judy (Tiffany) and his boy Ellroy (Patric Zimmerman). They all get on with their lives as their father goes out to work for Mr Spacely (Mel Blanc) who is a hard taskmaster, forever putting George down, and to make matter worse getting to work through the traffic each morning is a nightmare that not even an inflatable traffic cop and siren impersonation can alleviate. But what if there was a chance for him to put all this behind him and take his family on a great job opportunity into space itself?
The Jetsons is a curious beast in the annals of television cartoons, as for all its recognisability, it initially lasted one season back in the nineteen-sixties thanks to its meagre premise, basically The Flintstones only futuristic, didn't capture the imagination as much as many from the Hanna Barbera studio did. It was no Huckleberry Hound, it was no Scooby-Doo Where Are You?, it was barely a Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, yet somehow, possibly because of a once seen, never forgotten title sequence, it stuck around in pop culture to the extent that it was revived in the mid-eighties for two more seasons that didn't make that much more of an impression than it had originally.
But perhaps Hanna and Barbera were looking to the revival in fortunes of their more prestigious rivals at Disney, because once again, as they had done in the sixties, they sought to make big screen features of their properties, and The Jetsons were mysteriously brought to the forefront of that plan. However, it didn't go too well, largely because potential audiences wondered why to bother with visiting the movie theatres to watch something they could watch on television for free, along with the fact that nobody was particularly clamouring for a Jetsons film in the first place. Even with the updated "big idea" of ecology for the concept behind this, that was a poor fit for a property more interested in the comic mileage from George's troubles at work.
You could argue that was what was happening here as well, but in this instance we were supposed to take the implications of that new position seriously, as befitting its green concerns. Just as Ferngully: The Last Rainforest would, the Jetsons found themselves seeking to rescue a race of Ewoks (or nearest equivalent) from the mining operation on their home asteroid that the by now worryingly psychopathic Mr Spacely was inflicting on them. Remember the episode of Star Trek where miners are being killed off by what turns out to be a big pizza that Spock does a mind meld with to find out what its problem is? It was basically a cartoon version of that only with alternative pop culture sci-fi characters from the sixties acting it out instead, increasing the supposedly cutesy factor by a few thousand.
The trouble with that pressure on such lightweight shoulders was that either you explore those issues properly or you don't worry about them at all, and Jetsons: The Movie was not really the place to discuss such things, heck, Captain Planet struggled and that was its whole purpose. Fans already took against it anyway when they learned Judy was to be revoiced by eighties pop star Tiffany, replacing the already recorded work by original artiste Janet Waldo, apparently so they could crowbar in a few tunes for Tiff to sing in some faintly trippy musical sequences that padded out an already brief experience further (it barely reached an hour and a quarter before the lengthy credits appeared). Another drawback was that Hanna-Barbera sense of humour, nothing subtle or witty, just going relentlessly for the obvious, which was tiresome when forced into the magnification that cinema provides: you can only see Astro the dog lick George so many times (or indeed once) before the humour has been driven into the ground. A few moves towards CGI jazzed up the visuals, but it was difficult to see what point could be successfully made by any of it. Music by John Debney.