|The Smurfs try to stop a diabolical serial killer. A Predator tries to get to first base with an Alien in an episode of Blind Date. N*Syncs Joey Fatone pits his kung fu skills against Hello Kitty and Sub Zero. Voltron gets "served."
If you dont know what the hell Im talking about, stay far, far away from Robot Chicken: Vol. 1 (2005), the twisted comedy series from Cartoon Networks Adult Swim, now out on DVD. This is not a show for anyone who never watched Thundercats or He-Man. If, on the other hand, youve been anxiously waiting for a stop-motion animated show that combines 80s pop-culture references with South Park-style bad taste, all performed by a cast of cheap plastic action figures with celebrity voices, then congratulations you big weirdo, they made this show just for you.
The cult photo-comic strip "Twisted Toyfare Theater" (from Toyfare magazine) was the unofficial inspiration for this bizarre series. Robot Chicken creators Matthew Senreich and Seth Green (yes, that Seth Green) find weirder things for their collection of Dukes of Hazzard dolls to say and do than any sane person could possibly imagine. The sketches are short some barely a second long and are separated by quick bursts of static, suggesting that the viewer is flipping from channel to channel. We get to see the gang from Scooby Doo go up against the masked psycho from Friday the 13th ("Now lets see who Jason Voorhees really is...Gasp! Old man Phillips?") as well as an animated Rachel Leigh Cook snapping during a "this is your brain on drugs" commercial and rampaging through the streets with a frying pan. One of the more inspired parodies re-creates the climactic moment from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) in which Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker (voiced by the real Mark Hamill, no less) that "I am your father." Then he gets carried away: "And Princess Leia is your sister! And the Empire will be defeated by Ewoks! And as a kid, I built C-3PO!"
Sounds good to you? Just be sure to enjoy the funnier gags, because the jokes that dont work are downright painful. The shows freewheeling style, in which anything and everything the writers can think of gets animated, leads to an awful lot of dreadful material and there are enough duds in the mix to make Robot Chicken occasionally seem like an agonizing grind, even with its incredibly brief 12-minute episode format. Watching several episodes back-to-back on DVD is an activity best attempted while in a forgiving mood. (Seriously guys, what the hell were you thinking with that Walt Disney sketch? He gets brought back to life as a giant robot spider that eats Cuban children? Thats the joke? Yeeesh!) Still, the program has its share of loyal fans, and if it sounds like your kind of humour, it probably is. Just rent first, if you havent seen it before.
Be sure to check out the special features section, in which an incredibly enthusiastic Green can be seen pitching one of his sketch ideas, while flinging his arms around in an uncontrollable frenzy. He looks like a tornado full of elbows.