Why Everyone Should Watch Steven Universe – Hulu/Cartoon Network Op-Ed

There’s a reason why the people of the world believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl… and Steven.

SUMMARY

Welcome to Beach City, Delmarva (yes, that’s a state here). It’s a quiet seaside town, except for all of the monster attacks. Fortunately, it has long been guarded over by the Crystal Gems, a group of sentient magical alien gemstones in human form. The team consists of leader Garnet (Estelle), wild child Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and strategist Pearl (Deedee Magno Hall). At the beginning of the series, they are raising their future fourth teammate, Steven Universe (Zach Callison), the son of their former leader Rose Quartz (Susan Egan) and her human lover Greg Universe (Tom Scharpling). Steven starts to inherit his mother’s powers when he’s 13, leading him to want to take a more active role in the team. As his abilities grow, however, so too do the threats against humanity, ranging from the cracked gem Lapis Lazuli (Jennifer Paz) to the agents of the Crystal Gem Homeworld’s Great Diamond Authority, Peridot (Shelby Rabara) and Jasper (Kimberly Brooks), to the Diamonds themselves, Yellow Diamond (Patti LuPone), Blue Diamond (Lisa Hannigan), and White Diamond (Christine Ebersole). Fortunately, Steven’s natural empathy makes him really good at gaining allies. He also regularly interacts with his best friend Connie Maheswaran (Grace Rolek) and local donut sellers Lars and Sadie (Matthew Moy and Kate Micucci). Also, they’re later joined by former Crystal Gem Bismuth (Uzo Aduba). After the show ends, Steven deals with the threat of the mad gem Spinel (Sarah Stiles), and then an existential crisis.

The cast page is huge by the end.

END SUMMARY

When I talked about Adventure Time, I said that the show was the ultimate coming-of-age story because it represents a shift from a childish world to a more complex and, despite the setting, a more realistic adult one. Steven Universe has a similar progression, but the world it progresses towards is more of an ideal than a reality. Whereas Finn in Adventure Time sometimes averted conflict through empathy, he still often just chooses the “violent” solution, because it’s expeditious and works on people who will not listen to reason. Steven Universe, on the other hand, starts off with the gems often choosing the more direct solution of beating the crap out of monsters, but as the show progresses and Steven takes on a greater role, conflicts are increasingly resolved through a combination of endurance and empathy. No matter how resolved the enemy is, Steven can still find a way to connect with them and turn them to his side. Heck, the series finale is called “Change Your Mind.” 

And yes, it includes a song based on the title.

While the show was filled with bold choices (more on that in a minute), one of the most profound was giving Steven powers that are traditionally not associated with a male superhero. His abilities are almost exclusively related to defense (a shield and a bubble), healing, and empathy through astral projection or empathetic telepathy. While he does eventually learn how to fight, for most of the show he leaves that up to the other Crystal Gems, whose powers manifest as weapons. Moreover, when he does finally start flinging his shield or throwing punches, he still always does so with non-lethal intent. The show ends up proving him right in doing so because defeating an enemy gives Steven a chance to speak with them again as an equal, rather than an opportunity to humiliate them. When Steven talks to enemies, he’s really trying to find the source of their anger and to help them with it, something that is way outside of the typical hero role. This ultimately allows Steven to get most of his enemies onto his side, meaning that he’s turned a weakness into his strength. It’s a message that so many people should heed: Defeating an enemy will likely breed more enemies, making a friend from an enemy won’t.

Other lesson: Hugs are good.

As to the other bold choices the show made, there are a lot of them. 

First, every body type is represented in this show and, moreover, every body type is presented as attractive. The main characters are a perfect example: Pearl is extremely thin and angular, Amethyst is short and callipygian, Garnet is taller, more muscular, and has an hourglass figure. More than that, Steven and Connie frequently “fuse,” combining into a non-binary character called Stevonnie (AJ Michalka), who is considered to be beautiful by men and women alike. 

Also, Stevonnie kicks a lot of butt.

Second, this show probably pulled the greatest move in getting an LGBT relationship into the series without causing a major “moral panic” by revealing that Garnet is, in fact, a fusion of two other gems, Ruby (Charlyne Yi) and Sapphire (Erica Luttrell). Garnet’s existence is powered by the love of these two characters, meaning that Garnet literally IS a lesbian relationship (and eventually a marriage). Pearl, too, is shown being attracted not only to other female gems, but also to human women. Rose Quartz is revealed to have been bisexual and, eventually, the show had the first non-binary character played by a non-binary actor in Shep (Indya Moore) in a kids show. In short, this show has a ton of LGBTQ+ representation, breaking all sorts of barriers. 

This is way more adorable in context.

Third, the series never shied away from a lot of musical experimentation. A clever storytelling supplement is that each of the main characters has an instrument associated with their music (Pearl: Piano, Garnet: Synth Bass, Amethyst: Drums, Steven: Chiptune Tones), as do almost all of the recurring characters, but each of their themes changes and combines when they fuse. For example, when Pearl and Amethyst fuse to become Opal (Aimee Mann), Amethyst’s drums become more ordered and Pearl’s piano more experimental. Moreover, the show itself has a heavy musical influence that increases as the show goes on, growing from relatively simple tunes on the ukulele and guitar to showtunes to some ridiculously complex works by Estelle or Chance the Rapper towards the end. Steven Universe: The Movie is a flat-out musical and I loved all of the numbers. 

Also, Ted Leo and Aimee Mann are fusions. Their band is called “The Both.” I love that.

Lastly, the final story arc of this show isn’t about fighting some intergalactic war or a typical escalation of villain a la Dragonball Z or Supernatural. Instead, this show ends on an introspective journey, analyzing the hero’s role after the show ends and how a person with traumatic experiences and a self-sacrificing nature adjusts to a more normal life. Showing that may be one of the most impressive and original things in a show filled with impressive and original things.

You. Will. Cry.

Now, similar to my statement about Adventure Time, I will caution anyone wanting to give this show a try that it is a pure kids show at the beginning. In fact, I genuinely advise against watching the beginning of the series unless you have small children. If you just want to get into the show, here’s my recommendation: Skip the first half of the first season to “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem.” Watch those two episodes, then skip to “Lion 3: Straight to Video” and go from there. I’ve just reduced the first season from 52 episodes to 21, and you will thank me for it. 

Just know that Steven has a pet pink lion that can teleport.

I loved this show, which is all the more impressive because when I watched the premiere, I assumed it was a waste of time. I can’t emphasize how much I didn’t enjoy the beginning of this series, to the point that I didn’t start watching it again until someone convinced me to give it another try a few years later. Please, give this show a try, particularly if you have kids. You may learn some things about yourself. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Hulu/Cartoon Network/HBO Max Op-Ed: Why Everyone Should Watch Adventure Time

Come along with me to a show that managed to turn every cliche on its head.

SUMMARY

Welcome to the Land of Ooo, where magic thrives, princesses are plentiful, and heroes are born. Oh, it’s also Earth after a nuclear war wiped out almost all of humanity. Finn (Jeremy Shada) is the last human and a courageous hero with a love of adventure and fighting. His adopted brother is Jake (John DiMaggio), a magical shapeshifting dog who is laid-back and fairly lazy, mostly because his powers allow him to do almost anything. Finn and Jake act as protectors of the Candy Kingdom, which is ruled over by the supergenius nerd Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch). The pair often have to rescue her from the machinations of the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a magical king who is obsessed with kidnapping princesses. Finn is also friends with Marceline, the hard-rocking Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). There’s also an adorable sentient computer named BMO (Niki Yang), the sarcastic Lumpy Space Princess (series creator Pendleton Ward), the fiery Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), Jake’s girlfriend Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang), and an insane number of recurring characters.

Peppermint Butler, Cinnamon Bun, the Earl of Lemongrab, and Tree Trunks made the cut.

END SUMMARY

Adventure Time is the ultimate coming of age story, because it progresses in the same way that life tends to progress when going from childhood to the cusp of adulthood. This is embodied in Finn, who ages from 12 years old to 17 during the series and, apparently, 18 in the HBO Max revival that’s coming out this year. Likewise, the show itself starts off as a really simple and childish series about a magical land where dreams come true and heroes and villains are easily discernible. As the show goes on, though, everything starts to get more and more complicated, with the good guys revealed to be morally ambiguous and the bad guys revealed to be more sympathetic or having deeper motivations than we had previously been privy to. 

The show starts with a slumber party, ends with war and an eldritch demon.

That’s what really makes this show special, because it takes a simple outlook of “good people vs. bad people,” then slowly destroys it, the way that people will need to have it destroyed at some point in their lives. Now, the show doesn’t say that there aren’t truly bad people out there in the world, in fact it makes a point of having a few characters that are just truly bad and never really get redeemed, but it does show that a lot of them have been made the way they are, or that they’re really trying to do the right thing and they just haven’t been able to. Similarly, seemingly good or innocent characters are shown to have selfish or stupid motivations. “People are complicated” is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because even when you know that fact, we often still want to group people into “good” and “bad.” However, that’s rarely ever the case, when you see what made them that way. 

Even Magic Man, a character who exists to be a jerk, gets some motivation.

One of the other great things about this show is how thoroughly it blends storytelling ideas from throughout history, although it’s almost entirely Western history. We see a lot of influences from fairy tales, because Ooo is a world where you can spontaneously stumble upon an old woman offering cursed apples or magic beans or maybe just a random princess trapped in a tower. The randomness of happenings in the world allow for shorter-form storytelling, because they eschew set-ups. We also see a number of episodes derived from mythologies ranging from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, where our characters are just pawns caught in the grasps of higher beings. Then, there are the more modern stories where the characters are playing video games or addressing fan fiction. By combining all of these influences, the show gains a more timeless quality and a greater level of relevance to almost any viewer.

I mean, ghost gladiators are timeless.

The animation and the voice action are highly stylized, but that also lets the show play with styles more and convey more visually than many shows could. It mostly does a good job in making body horror and grotesqueries look cartoonish enough that they’re not really scary. The show does frequently do horror storylines or episodes, ranging from possession to murder to existential horror, but despite the darkness, the show’s animation and the emotional resilience of the characters manage to keep it bearable for any viewer. It helps that the show’s storytelling is unbelievably streamlined, with each episode being 12 minutes and yet often feeling like you’ve watched a full normal episode of television. They do this by using a lot of quick cuts and clever visual storytelling tricks to convey massive amounts of information in a few seconds.

3 Seconds of knife rain and you know why the characters can’t go outside.

The main reason why I want more people to watch this, aside from helping any viewer with their emotional development, is that the show teaches a valuable lesson that most shows can’t teach because they don’t grow the way this show does: Even though life is complicated, you can always keep fighting to do the right thing. What is “right” will always change as you get more information, so it’s tempting to just not learn more, but it’s better to learn and grow and change yourself. The right thing isn’t usually the easy thing, particularly when you have to accept that you might have been wrong in the past, but the world works out better for everyone, including you, when you work to change it for the better. 

Also, maybe be honest about your feelings before it’s too late.

The downside to the show’s brilliant structure is that the beginning of the show is extremely childish and simple, with humor that often is in the same vein. In other words, some of the episodes just aren’t that fun to watch for adults until around Season 3. If you want to just spend 15 minutes to test if the show will be for you, I would recommend watching the Season 3 episode “What was Missing.” If you like it, give the show a try. If, after seeing that, you want to get into the show without having to go through all of the early episodes, I recommend the following episodes in Season 1:

“The Enchiridion,” “Ricardio the Heart Guy (it’s got George Takei),” “Evicted,” “What Have You Done?” and “His Hero.”

For Season 2:

“It Came From The Nightosphere,” “The Eyes,” “To Cut a Woman’s Hair,” “The Silent King,” “Guardians of Sunshine,” “Death in Bloom,” “Susan Strong,” “Heat Signature,” and “Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil.” 

So, if you just watch those episodes, you get most of the show’s set-up, but you only need like 3 hours to do it. Once you get to Season 3, the show quickly starts to get much stronger, especially when you get to “What was Missing,” and “Holly Jolly Secrets,” an episode that I put on my list of the best episodes of television

Overall, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and the fact that it’s still going brings me nothing but joy. Please give it a watch. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Reader Request – Cool World: Too Inane To Hate

A family member requested that I review this, or I never would watch this again.

SUMMARY

In 1945, WWII Vet Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) arrives back from the war and takes his mother (Janni Brenn-Lowen) for a ride on a motorcycle. He crashes, killing his mother, but before he dies he is transported to an animated world called the “Cool World,” by Dr. Vincent Whiskers (Maurice LaMarche). The movie then jumps to 1992 where cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is in prison for murdering a man who was sleeping with his wife. Jack is a creator and illustrator of a comic strip which is also called “Cool World,” starring a femme fatale named Holli Would (Kim Basinger). He frequently has visions of himself going to Cool World, culminating in Holli pulling him into the world through the pages of his comic. Jack is confronted by Frank, who is now apparently Cool World law enforcement. There is only one rule in Cool World, and that’s that “noids” (humans) don’t have sex with “doodles” (animated characters). This puts a strain on Frank’s relationship with his girlfriend Lonette (Candi Milo).

So much LSD went into this scene.

Despite Jack believing he created Cool World, Frank tells Jack that Cool World is older than Jack is. Holli Would is one of the most powerful figures in Cool World, but she wants out. The only way to get out is to break the law and have sex with a human, so she seduces Jack and is turned into a real person. She and Jack head to the real world, where it’s revealed that they’re both now part doodle and part noid. Holli tells Jack about the “spike of power,” an object that controls the barrier between the two worlds which is now atop a Vegas casino. When Jack doubts the story of the spike, Holli abandons him. 

Kim Basinger somehow underplays a live-action 2-D character.

Frank follows the pair into the real world and tries to stop Holli, who kills him. Holli seizes the spike and the barrier between Cool World and the real world start breaking down, unleashing doodles into the real world. Jack turns himself into a cartoon superhero and returns the spike, restoring the worlds and sending Jack and Holli back to Cool World as doodles. Frank is apparently turned into a doodle because he was killed by a doodle, so he can finally date Lonette. 

END SUMMARY

As much as I would love to tell you all how much I despise this ridiculous, nonsensical, bordering on pointless film, I can’t. It’s so difficult to figure out what the film was going for and what part of the process tanked it that I can’t bring myself to be angry, only confused and annoyed at having to watch it. 

Angry and confused is a common emotion in this film.

This movie has a notoriously bad production history with a huge number of rumors arising about the various people involved. A big part of that is that director Ralph Bakshi is, at best, very eccentric and, at worst, bordering on delusional. He has produced some of the most distinct animated work of the past century, including Wizards, Fritz the Cat, American Pop, and Heavy Traffic (possibly his best film that doesn’t get enough recognition). If you’ve seen any of those movies, though, you know they’re not the product of a well mind. While he is the guy who was right about the possibility of making a film based around elves discovering Nazi propaganda, he’s also the kind of guy who would think of that premise in the first place. Putting him in charge of any project is playing with fire, but in this case, everyone at the studio apparently decided to pour gasoline for good measure. 

Admit it, he looks like the crazy uncle who shows up for Thanksgiving.

The original pitch for the movie by writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor (who wrote Poltergeist) was about an imprisoned artist who creates a comic series that makes him an underground comics star. He then has sex with one of his creations and spawns a half-animated, half-human child, who grows up to seek revenge on his parents. It was supposed to be a hard-R horror film that was in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which had only just come out. Rather than just animation and live-action blending, Bakshi decided that he wanted the film to look like a living painting, ordering elaborate sets and backgrounds to be built for the movie while he worked on the screenplay, which the studio now wanted to be PG-13. However, and the following is based solely on Bakshi’s statements and unconfirmed, apparently on the first day of filming he was handed a script that was completely different than what he had worked on. Subsequently, in the middle of filming, Kim Basinger tried to have the movie re-written to be a PG film so that she could show it to kids, but Bakshi refused to tone it down further. While almost everything Bakshi has claimed is heavily disputed, it would explain a lot about this movie if it was being crafted by a number of sources fighting against each other. 

The backgrounds are often amazing. Look at those paintings. Many of them were real.

Everything about this movie is a giant mess, almost all of which seems to be because nobody could agree on what the plot was supposed to be, what the rules of the world are, or whether or not the audience should be able to follow it. Half the time it feels like the movie just starts pulling stuff out of its ass because time is running out, the other half it feels like the entire point was that someone wanted Jessica Rabbit to ride Gabriel Byrne like a 10 dollar stud. We don’t know exactly how people get in or out of Cool World, except for Frank being pulled in by the spike, we don’t know any character’s motivations except for Holli wanting to orgasm her way into reality, and we have no idea what the hell the spike is or why it apparently needs to be stuck in the top of a building in Vegas. Every time we’re given a hint about any of these things, like that people have been pulled in by Holli before Jack, they just raise even more questions. 

Also, she says she doesn’t “feel real,” so… is she like an animation cell?

Then there’s the Cool World itself, which either looks like a really well done painting, a great animated setting, or a shitty last-second sketch by a Senior who got drunk and forgot his final project is due. There’s a statement from some of the background animators on the film that they weren’t actually given a screenplay, they were just told to draw stuff that seemed funny, which explains why there are constantly random things happening in the background. Now, the idea of a cartoon world that obeys the rules of crazy old-school animation like Betty Boop, where everything is moving or alive or just defying all reason would be kind of neat, but the film never does anything with it. It’s even more annoying because the Cool World is described as a place where there are no rules, aside from the one rule, so it should be dirty, crazy, and filled with murder and perversion. That sounds closer to what Bakshi originally said he wanted, and that might at least have been entertaining in its audacity. Instead, it feels like what an 11 year old boy thought was the ultimate in adult stuff before the internet existed: There’s a hot lady with boobs and a bunch of swears and sex involves her bouncing on you while you’re both fully clothed.

I mean, random background sex cats. Which would be a good band name.

Then there’s the third act, where everything somehow becomes even more incoherent. Brad Pitt’s character is killed off in a tragically bad stunt for no reason, Gabrielle Byrne suddenly literally gets kicked out of the movie to become an animated character voiced by someone else, and Holli decides to help destroy the barrier between the worlds, something that is completely different than anything she wanted before. Even for a movie with tragically stupid character motives, everything just seems to randomly shift to a completely different movie so that they can just end it, which, honestly, was probably what everyone making the movie felt about the situation by that point. 

Also, killing a human makes them a toon, so… why didn’t she kill him before now?

Despite all of the crap, the movie does have some good points. Some of the animation in the film is actually really great. Some of the concepts in the movie are interesting enough that they should actually get a movie. The soundtrack is actually really great, including having an original song by David Freaking Bowie. The voices for the animated characters include some great voice actors like Maurice LaMarche and Charlie Adler, all of whom do good work. However, this is looking for a nugget of gold in a shallow river of trash. 

David Bowie, I miss you.

Overall, I can’t say that I hate this movie, because I think I would have to feel more about it to even get to that point. The weird thing is that I think everyone should actually watch it just to get an idea of what it looks like when a movie has so much potential and then squanders it spectacularly. Unfortunately, it is not free on any f*cking streaming service, so you’ll have to rent it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

CW / DC Universe Review – Stargirl: Luke Wilson in a Giant Robot

No, seriously, Luke Wilson in a GIANT ROBOT.

SUMMARY 

LUKE WILSON IN A GIANT ROBOT!!!
Okay, wait, give me a second. …Alright, I’m calm. 

Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) is a sophomore in high school who has just moved with her family to the seemingly innocent small town of Blue Valley. Naturally, she quickly becomes a social outcast for standing up to bully Henry King, Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), resulting in her sitting at the “losers” table with delinquent Rick Tyler (Cameron Gellman), nerd Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington), and former popular girl Yolanda Montez (Yvette Monreal). However, she finds a strange glowing staff in a box in her basement which gives her superpowers. It turns out that her stepfather, Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson inagiantrobot), was the former sidekick to superhero Starman (Joel McHale) and the only surviving member of the Justice Society of America. It turns out that Blue Valley is under the control of the Injustice Society of America, run by Icicle (Neil Jackson), Brainwave (Christopher James Baker), Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins), Gambler (Eric Goins), Dragon King (Nelson Lee), Wizard (Joe Knezevich), and Solomon Grundy. Courtney decides to take up the fight as Stargirl and Pat guards her by fighting in a giant robot. 

If you hate her outfit, you hate America.

END SUMMARY

I have no idea why I love the idea of a giant robot speaking like Luke Wilson, but I’m gonna say that it amused me to an obviously unhealthy degree. Beyond that, this show just surprised me with how much I enjoyed it in general. Yes, it’s filled with basically every superhero trope and every high school show trope at the same time, but somehow it manages to play them together in a distinct and interesting way. Since the show airs on the CW the day after it premieres on DC Universe, it was never going to be able to try and be the “edgy, adult” show that Titans wants to be (or that Swamp Thing actually was). However, since it’s airing on DC Universe, it didn’t have to focus on getting an audience quickly in order to stay on television. These factors seemed to combine in a way where the show spent a lot of its first two episodes trying to set up a large number of threads for the future, something I previously praised The Flash pilot for doing. In this case, the show opens 10 years in the past, showing what happened to the previous Justice Society of America, as well as showing how interconnected the high school and superhero plotlines are going to be, since several of the supervillains have kids around Courtney’s age. Actually, now that I type that out, that means that almost all of the supervillains had kids between the ages of 4 and 8 when they took over the city of Blue Valley. I would love for the show to go deeper into how the hell parenting worked as a wanted supervillain, which they might, since we’re only on episode 4.

Yes, it has Rocket Fists.

A big part of the show’s success is definitely Wilson and Bassinger. Despite the fact that we’ve seen two different versions of the character on Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow, Bassinger’s take on a new and inexperienced Stargirl is distinct. Her performance captures the combination of fear and excitement that someone would feel if they suddenly found themselves in possession of superpowers. There are some corny comic moments, but a lot of it comes off as sincere, including her fear when actually dealing with a supervillain. Wilson, meanwhile, is a combination of awkward sidekick (he’s always been older than the superhero he aids) and awkward stepdad (yes, they do the “you’re not my real dad” thing). It’s important that they maintain strong presences given the extremely large supporting cast that the show has introduced. I can only assume that we’re going to start getting more episodes focused on other characters soon, which will make some consistent, strong characters even more important. 

The marketing might be spoiling stuff a bit.

Overall, I really think this show has a lot of potential. Give it a try on the CW. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Scoob!: Like A Weird Caricature of Scooby-Doo

The first animated feature film in the franchise is not quite what I hoped, but it’s not a tragedy.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Will Forte/Iain Armitage) adopts a talking dog which he names Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) as a kid. The two become best friends, and one Halloween night they end up meeting three other children: Fred Jones (Zac Efron/Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried/Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez/Ariana Greenblatt). The five end up thwarting a fake haunting in a local house and become a team of supernatural sleuths known as “Mystery Incorporated.” 

Scoob | Stream and Watch Full Film Online
A Pup named Scooby-Doo. That’s already a thing.

Ten years later, the group is trying to become an actual business, but Scooby and Shaggy are accused of being dead weight. They go and sulk by bowling, where they are attacked by robots. The team ends up being caught in a scheme by supervillain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), resulting in them teaming up with the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), his canine robot companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and his pilot Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). It turns out this time the stakes might be the fate of the world.

END SUMMARY

Alright, I’m going to split this review so that I don’t drive people nuts. The first half is going to be me talking about this as a reviewer, the second as a Scooby-Doo fanboy. 

Scoob Review: Scooby-Doo Without the Scooby-Doo – /Film
This movie fears fans more than ghosts.

As a reviewer, this movie has some good points. The animation style really does seem like they just made a CGI model of the original cartoon designs with some era-appropriate updates. There are a number of surprisingly solid jokes for a film like this, including some decent slapstick gags. The film covers both the origin of the team as well as their “greatest challenge,” but it never really feels rushed. I was surprised how much happened in only 90 minutes. The addition of Blue Falcon (or at least his son Brian who takes over for him) allows the movie to put in some creative action sequences, and Jason Isaacs’s interpretation of Dick Dastardly manages to be deeper than the character has ever really been before and yet still a stereotypical villain. Also, there are a ton of cameos from past cartoons and the traditional goofy sound effects that will probably give you some childhood nostalgia. 

Review: 'Scoob' is all we could want in a Scooby-Doo reboot
Nostalgia bomb.

On the negative side, the voice acting is probably going to be divisive. I didn’t think it was really that great, because each of the voices felt more like the actor than the character. The plot is kind of ridiculous even for a kids’ movie, with me frequently going “wait, really?” Fortunately, it’s not too heavy on plot, trying instead for some deeper characterizations between the action and comedy. Unfortunately, it tries them with Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly more than it does with the actual Scooby team and, honestly, Blue Falcon wasn’t that interesting. He’s the fame-seeking son of the original Blue Falcon, which could be worthwhile as the focus of a movie, but he’s only an ancillary character so most of the scenes feel weird and unnecessary. 

New Scoob! Trailer Introduces Dynomutt and Mark Wahlberg's Blue ...
Admittedly, Mark Wahlberg does play “fame-seeking idiot” pretty well.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t ever really come close to the level of Pixar or Into the Spider-Verse or other modern great animated films. If you’ve got kids, it’s probably worth it when this movie comes out on Redbox or rental, but don’t spend the 20 bucks to get it now. 

CheerleaderNinjas - Logo
You could buy Cheerleader Ninjas four times for that amount.

Okay, so, now I’m going to address this as a long-time Scooby-Doo fan. I want you to understand that I have gone out of my way to watch almost every Scooby-Doo property and I am only mildly ashamed of that. Hell, I reviewed Daphne and Velma on here, because I’m that dedicated. So, as a fan, I say the following: It’s amazing that this movie can be so close to getting it right and yet not really get it at all. The film contains a decent reproduction of the original Scooby-Doo, Where are You? theme sequence that I think kind of represents the film as a whole: It’s got the elements, but not the spirit. It’s like the people who made this read all of the Wikipedia entries on Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Hanna-Barbera family, but didn’t watch them. 

Blue Falcon (Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) | Scoobypedia | Fandom
In contrast to Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which nailed everything.

Part of why I feel that way is the sort of “sampler platter” this film presents of the Scooby-Doo franchise. We start off with the gang as kids, like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, then we see the Scooby-Doo, Where are You? Opening play out, then we see the gang meeting up with Simon Cowell, as they would in The New Scooby-Doo Movies, then we see them dealing with robots and superheroes rather than supernatural entities (although we end up seeing an actual supernatural element in the film), which is reminiscent of the later Scooby-Doo shows. This should have given me a nostalgia overload, but instead it ended up feeling like a jumbled mess, because while Scooby-Doo and the gang may have done things as diverse as rebooting the universe by defeating an eldritch abomination, helping KISS stop a witch, participating in the Laugh-a-lympics, or helping Batman fight crime, they never did them all at once. This film starts out with the traditional “meddling kids” model, but then abandons it when the plot actually begins, instead becoming more of an action comedy focused on Dick Dastardly and the Blue Falcon. That means that the characters we see in the first act should be completely out of their element throughout the rest of the movie, but instead they pretty much immediately just shift into the new paradigm without any issues. It just feels off.

SCOOB! Spoiler-Free Review; "A Better Dick Dastardly Story Than A ...
Also, THERE’S NO MYSTERY. It’s Dick Dastardly. He tells you that 10 minutes in.

It also doesn’t help that none of the characters really feel right either, from the characterizations and design updates to the voice actors. I love Will Forte, but he doesn’t really try to deliver Shaggy’s lines like he was Shaggy. Instead, it just comes off as Will Forte trying to act like himself in the 60s. He just doesn’t come off as a “scared hippie.” The same is true for most of the voice actors, aside from Amanda Seyfried and, of course, Frank Welker. It’s weird for me that they decided they had to have four celebrity voices when there already are already four semi-famous actors who voice the current version on television: Grey Griffin, Kate Micucci, Matthew Lillard, and Frank Welker, who has been voicing Fred for 50 freaking years. None of them really feel like the characters they’re supposed to be, from the voices to the appearances to the things they say and do. That extends to most of the other characters as well, with the usually goofy Dynomutt being a snarky jerk, the usually Batman-esque Blue Falcon being kind of an idiot, Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) speaking normally and being sarcastic, and Dick Dastardly being an actual genius supervillain as opposed to just a comic badguy. It’s like they’re all drawings of the characters made by someone who had the originals described to them, rather than seeing the real thing.

Scoob!' Review: Once More Into the Mystery Machine - The New York ...
I didn’t want a serious Dynomutt. There’s even an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory about that.

Honestly, I still enjoyed parts of the movie, and I could overlook almost any of this if it were just a better film in general, but it still took it down a bit for me. 

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Reader Request / Shudder Review – Blood Quantum: Colonialism in the Zombie Apocalypse

We get another solid social allegory film involving zombies and it’s awesome.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) is the chief of police on the fictional Red Crow reserve of the Mi’kmaq, a real Northeastern First Nations people. On a morning in 1981, his badass veteran father, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman), catches a bunch of fish that don’t die, even when gutted. At the same time, Traylor’s ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) informs him that his sons Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) and Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) are both in jail… with a man who is vomiting blood. Attacks start to happen all around the reservation where people suddenly find themselves turned into vicious, bloodthirsty zombies. However, it turns out that the people of the Mi’kmaq are immune to the virus. Soon, the Red Crow reserve is seeing an influx of people seeking shelter, and they must decide whether or not they should allow outsiders onto their land.

BloodQuantum - 1RedCrow
It’s a very ’80s apocalypse, honestly.

END SUMMARY

Zombies have been an excellent source of social commentary ever since George Romero first started really bringing the genre to life, so to speak. This film is a prime example of how you can use something like zombies as a way to hold up a mirror to society’s failures. In this case, after the initial outbreak, we get a picture of how society has changed since, with most places aside from Red Crow having fallen. Red Crow reserve is on an island with only one bridge in and out, so the reserve puts in place what has got to be one of the greatest mass anti-zombie devices ever: a series of walls that funnel the zombies into a massive soil tiller. It grinds them into nothing in only a few seconds, saving on bullets, and dumps the remains into the river. I’ve seen other movies do similar things, but this movie actually explains that it was done to save on resources, which is awesome.

BloodQuantum - 2Bridge
The fish are already zombies anyway.

Early on in the film, we get a pretty clear picture of what the allegory is going to be for this story when we first see the deluge of white people showing up to the reservation begging for help and believing that the Red Crow people can somehow “cure” zombification. Two of the members of the tribe start talking about what to do with an infected girl in their own language, only for the man to angrily and repeatedly shout “Speak English.” Because even in a time of crisis, he feels entitled enough to demand that other people, on their own land, speaking their own language, who he is asking for help, accommodate him. One of the Mi’kmaq even refers to the girl as “Karen” by accident. That’s basically what this film is, trying to examine the effects of colonialism, all over again, in the modern day. We have a group of First Nation people who are stuck having to decide if they should risk their safety for the sake of helping outsiders.

BloodQuantum - 3Cast
So many great performances.

The title of the movie, Blood Quantum, relates to the blood quantum laws, a series of laws that determined who qualified as a member of a Native American tribe. Obviously, this idea becomes important in this film, since only members of the Mi’kmaq are shown to be immune to the zombification. The question is how far that immunity extends, something that impacts Joseph’s pregnant girlfriend and their future baby. This movie was written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, who is himself a member of the Mi’kmaq, so I’m sure he’s seen the actual impact of these laws in the past.

BloodQuantum - 4Rhymes
Barnaby’s previous film took place on the same reserve.

As far as Zombie movies go, the action in this is pretty great. There’s a lot of solid zombie effects and the zombies themselves are extremely threatening, being faster than most zombies and able to tear people apart with ease. Most of the members of Red Crow are badasses when the time comes to fight some waves of undead, particularly Gisigu, who uses a katana because “you don’t have to reload a sword.”

BloodQuantum - 5Gisigu
Do. NOT. Mess with Gisigu.

Overall, seriously, just a great movie. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes Zombie films. Also, it works pretty well for anyone who likes historical allegory films or just is interested in getting stories focused on another culture.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Reader Request – Cheerleader Ninjas: So It’s Come To This

This film exists and it is not as bad as you would assume from the title. 

SUMMARY

The following is a summary of this film and not me dictating while having a series of strokes that cause me to belch nonsense:

CheerleaderNinjas - 1Crane
The low quality on these images is not always my fault.

A group of “Catholic Mothers with too much time on their hands” blame the local cheerleaders (Angela Brubaker, Renee Deemer, Sunny Graves, Tamara Lentz) from Happy Valley High School for all of the porn and filth on the internet (as well as children being eaten by cyber demons). While the cheerleaders are both sexual and dumber than a sack of wet mules (this is definitely an expression), this still seems over the top. Based on that, the church ladies hire Stephen (Jeff Nicholson), an evil and gay (these two things are unrelated but both mentioned frequently) cheer-squad reject to train four evil Catholic schoolgirls (Brooke Martin, Alissa Shanley, Cathryn Farnsworth, Jade Merrithew) to destroy the cheerleaders. Fortunately, they survive the attack and learn ninjutsu so they can defeat the evil schoolgirls. At the same time, the Mothers and Stephen hire Mr. X (Donr Sneed), an evil computer genius, to replace most of the internet with pictures of the Pope. However, Mr. X has his own scheme that will have to be thwarted by the cheerleaders and their allies, the Nerds (Matthew Mertz, Jared Brubaker, Adam Burns, T. Scott Becker). 

END SUMMARY

I originally found out about this movie nearly 20 years ago when it was purchased for a family member, we’ll call him “AndTheRippers,” by another member of the family, we’ll call him “Clownpants,” after the former had made a joke about this concept. Clownpants is also the one who requested this review due to him being bored out of his mind from the 2020 Quarantine. I honestly didn’t remember much about the film, aside from one single gag that I’ll cover later. Also, this isn’t to be confused with the George Takei film Ninja Cheerleaders.

CheerleaderNinjas - 2Comparisons
Surprisingly, the George Takei one (right) came second.

This movie starts off boldly by listing the “alternate titles we didn’t use” which include “Crouching Tiger, Hidden .357” and “101 Ways to Wok Your Dog.” It then starts the credits by promising that Angela, the one with “big knockers” will lift up her shirt at the end of the movie, “so hang in there,” and that pretty much tells you how seriously this movie will take anything. This film is essentially a parody of exploitation films and martial arts films in the vein of Airplane! or The Naked Gun, only without the budget (or the talent, but this movie’s still got its moments). There are a ton of sight gags, such as having all of the people in the high school grouped together with signs like “The in crowd,” “Rappers” (people who are wrapping gifts, and “druggies” (people who are practicing pharmacology. Some of these are funny, some of them would be hilarious if there was a bit better timing for the punchline, and some just don’t work. In fairness, in most parody films, even great ones, there are gags that don’t really work, but the key to pulling off a full movie with that humor is managing to keep a massive variety of them coming, while still spacing them out appropriately so the beats hit. Cheerleader Ninjas tries to do that, but comes up short. 

CheerleaderNinjas - 3Cast
There are a lot of background wifebeaters.

A lot of this movie is based on the kind of social stereotype humor that brought us Revenge of the Nerds, something that is frequently referenced by the film. All of the nerds are dressed in Star Trek uniforms, the cheerleaders only ever wear their uniforms, and the jocks repeatedly beat up random people in the background. While that is funny on occasion, after a while the reliance on those gets old. The fourth wall is frequently broken and, similarly, this alternates between being funny and being too much, and the same goes for the repeated jokes that derive from the film not having enough of a budget to do actual stunts (like where they replace one of the actors with a blow-up doll for a fight scene). The worst thing is that a lot of the jokes in this film are scatological, and those stop being funny pretty fast. Still, there is a solid joke every few minutes, so you can actually make it through the film as long as you’re willing to wait.

The problem with a low-budget comedy, particularly one like this, is that it can’t really come across as “so bad it’s good” when things go wrong the way that a low-budget horror or drama can. Comedy often relies on timing and delivery as much as it relies on material and that means that trying to have less-than-talented actors deliver jokes just causes everything to fall flat. Unfortunately, that describes much of this cast, as most of them simply can’t make the jokes work… although a lot of the jokes wouldn’t work with George Carlin saying them.

CheerleaderNinjas - 4Sword
There’s a Highlander joke here, which could have worked, but doesn’t.

The movie also tries to parody exploitation films, but it does just have genuine exploitation in it. There is random nudity throughout the film, mostly in the form of Kira Reed, who, being a former adult actress, plays out almost all of the fantasy sequences in the movie and they are as exploitative as it gets without being actual pornography. 

CheerleaderNinjas - 5Bush
Here’s a random picture of a bush.

However, all of this is nearly redeemed by one, single joke in the film that stood out after roughly 18 years of not thinking about the movie. That joke is the Very Rare Bear. There is a scene when the cheerleaders are first learning to be ninjas in which one of them loses control of their sword in a park and kills a “very rare bear” which is clearly a person in a bear suit (they aren’t even wearing bear feet, making them bare footed, which also stood out). Unfortunately, I could only find a low-quality clip of it online, but the sheer level of insanity required to come up with this concept somehow stood out and still makes me laugh. 

Overall, I’m not going to say this is a good movie, but I do at least acknowledge that it has a few moments… and the Very Rare Bear. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Temporary HBO Access Review – Barry (Seasons 1 and 2): Hitman Comedy Done Right

Bill Hader stars in a story of a hitman trying to become a star.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a former Marine who has turned hitman, working for Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root). Fuches orders Barry to do a hit for Chechen mobster Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler) targeting Ryan Madison (Tyler Jacob Moore), an aspiring actor who has been sleeping with Goran’s wife. Barry follows Ryan to an acting class run by Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), an extremely self-aggrandizing acting coach, and attended by aspiring actress Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg). Barry gets caught in the class and does a scene, poorly, before he ends up getting stuck driving Ryan home, something witnessed by Goran’s associate NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan). Barry ends up killing Ryan, which is being investigated by Detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome), but also finds himself drawn to the acting class. Now he’s got to find a way out of the contract killer world in order to pursue his dream… despite his complete lack of talent.

Barry - 1Barry
He kills with frills.

END SUMMARY

There have been a number of hitman/assassin comedies. There have been hitman/assassin comedies about people trying to leave the business. There have even been shows about hitmen trying to get into the movie industry (Get Shorty, for example). However, this one stands out as an example of this strangely specific subgenre at its best.

Barry - 2GPBlank
And it’s a very good subgenre.

Bill Hader’s performance is almost perfect. It’s one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen on TV in a while, mostly because he’s just so broken. Barry is unhinged and emotionally damaged, but not in an over-the-top way. It’s the subtlety with which Hader shows how disconnected Barry is to other human beings that really makes you feel like he’s a real, relatable person. I was a fan of Dexter, but whereas that show and Michael C. Hall’s performance kept saying how crazy Dexter’s psychopathic tendencies were, this show doesn’t ever talk about Barry being messed up, only showing his fantasies and reactions. 

Barry - 3Blood
Man has range, even with a blood goatee. 

I’m particularly impressed by Hader’s ability to play a terrible actor. Barry’s inability to properly express his emotions naturally opposes his ability to get into character and emote on stage. Naturally, this makes him absolutely atrocious at playing any character. However, we finally see him start to draw on his past experiences in order to properly play parts, something that leads to him becoming more confident… to an almost psychotic level, which is an interesting and still realistic way to do character growth. Moreover, despite his inability, he still manages to succeed due to the ridiculous nature of the film and television industry.

Barry - 4Suspenders
Plus he rocks some costumes.

The supporting cast is also excellent. Henry Winkler plays a failed actor who somehow convinces everyone else that he is capable of teaching them to succeed where he could not. Given the fact that Henry Winkler was, for a decade, arguably the most successful TV actor in the world, this works amazingly well. Sarah Goldberg plays the stereotypical struggling actress, but she constantly is confronted by the fact that she is not a natural star and that the industry is not going to cut her any breaks. NoHo Hank is the lovable guy with a crush on Barry despite also being a murderous gangster. Fuches is a cockroach who is also somehow charming because he’s played by Stephen Root, a man who excels at making unlikable characters likable. 

Barry - 5Fuches
Stephen Root just nails being a special kind of creepy.

The writing and direction are both great, allowing for a balance between action, comedy, and dramatic scenes that all still serve their desired purpose. The fact that the story frequently oscillates between inside of Barry’s head and to a third-person omniscient view would normally irritate me, but somehow the show always makes it work. 

Overall, amazing show. Recommend finding someone’s HBO account to watch this.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Disney Review – The Owl House: A Magical Family Show

Dana Terrace, formerly of Gravity Falls and the DuckTales reboot, brings us this story of an imaginative young girl.

SUMMARY

Luz Noceda (Sarah-Nicole Robles) is a teenage girl with an affinity for fantasy stories and a lack of restraint. She gets in trouble after her imagination gets the best of her and is sent to “reality check camp” by her mother. However, along the way she sees a small owl stealing her property. She gives chase through a magical doorway and finds herself on the Boiling Isles, a magical land that is responsible for most of human mythology. The owl is revealed to belong to Eda, the Owl Lady (Wendie Malick), the most powerful witch in the land… who makes her living selling stuff she stole from the human world. Luz proves to be an expert on human “artifacts,” so she’s taken back to Eda’s home, the Owl House, and introduced to the two other occupants: Hooty the house’s sentient door knocker and King, an adorable demon (Both voiced by Alex Hirsch from Gravity Falls). After helping save Eda from local authorities, Eda agrees to make Luz her apprentice… despite the handicap that humans can’t do magic.

OwlHouse - 1Cast
The fearsome demon is on the left.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned several times that I love Gravity Falls, even putting one of its episodes on my list of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. Dana Terrace was the storyboard artist on that episode. I’ve repeatedly stated that I loved the first season of DuckTales (2017) and Dana Terrace directed six episodes of that season, including “Woo-oo,” the pilot that told me something was going to be amazing about this reboot. So, when they announced that she would be creating a show involving a number of veterans of Gravity Falls, DuckTales, and Star vs. The Forces of Evil, all great recent Disney shows, then I knew I would have to check it out. Unfortunately, A) I don’t have cable and B) the show isn’t on Disney+ yet. So, I checked out the pilot on YouTube and enjoyed it enough to merit buying the first season on Amazon.  I’d say it helped that one of the first lines in the show was “My only weakness: DYING!!!!!!”

The key to this show, much like the shows that I’ve already mentioned in this review, is that even though it’s targeted mostly towards younger people (in this case, teens), the show tends to focus on generally relatable themes, mostly individualism vs. conformity. Luz is a person who doesn’t want to conform because of her love of nerd culture and Eda is a criminal because of her refusal to conform to her society’s rules on magic (and that she commits a LOT of petit theft). If you’re a nerd, or really anyone who has some kind of hobby that they’re passionate about, it’ll strike home a lot. 

OwlHouse - 2Wanted
Eda’s reward poster has a LOT of zeroes. 

The dialogue is generally both charming and clever. Luz has a kind of naivety about her that makes her willing to tolerate a lot of the absurd or dark things about the Boiling Isles (such as the random skin-eating pixies) with a cheerful and sunny disposition. It allows the show to be darker than you would expect without ever really feeling that way. Eda, meanwhile, is basically Wendie Malick if she went to Hogwarts. She’s snappy, she’s fun, she can blow a hole through a large building with little effort, and she constantly has a scheme to make herself money, despite the fact that she’s a wanted criminal. King is just adorable, even though he is constantly advocating things that are morally questionable (like forcefully taking over a toddlers playground) and is a huge fan of classifying monstrous demons.  

OwlHouse - 3Circle
The system of magic in this show is pretty interesting, although they haven’t fully explained it.

Honestly, great show, recommend it for any parents of kids between 6 and 14 as a thing you can watch with them without going insane. Also, Luz seems to be at least bi-curious, possibly making this the first Disney animated series with an LGTBQ lead… only a decade or two behind most of the other networks. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

DC Universe Review – Harley Quinn Season 2: No Man’s Land is a Woman’s Paradise

The adult animation returns for more violence, more strong female friendships, and more of a giant shark with a cuddly heart.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

After the Joker (Alan Tudyk) took over the city, got rid of the Justice League, and captured Batman (Diedrich Bader), Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) finally managed to take down the clown. Unfortunately, his last act was to activate a device that created an 8.2 earthquake (~30 Megatons of TNT or slightly more powerful than the biggest US nuclear device) in the middle of Gotham City. With everything destroyed, Batman gone, Joker presumed dead, and the Justice League trapped in another dimension, Harley finally has the city at her feet. The US Government has declared Gotham no longer part of the US, so no one is planning to come in and stop her. Unfortunately, the Riddler (Jim Rash), Two-Face (Andy Daly), Penguin (Wayne Knight), Mr. Freeze (Alfred Molina), and Bane (James Adomian) have banded together to put the new “No Man’s Land” under their rule. Harley has to deal with the new “Injustice Gang” with the help of her crew: Clayface (Tudyk), Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove), King Shark (Ron Funches), and Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander). 

HarleyQuinn2 - 1Cast
Yes, that’s King Shark and Dr. Psycho as Luchadores.

END SUMMARY

This show originally didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped. It seemed a little too violent and a little too crass to be what I was looking for. However, when I rewatched it, I found myself really enjoying the show’s fairly unique style of humor, often involving the mundane conversations of the characters that stand in contrast to the fact that they’re involved in superhuman events. For example, when trapped on a magical cloud populated by the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk, Poison Ivy and Harley both are interested in seeing how well-endowed the giant is. It’s a strange diversion, but it works well because it’s just so absurd for the situation.

HarleyQuinn - 2Giant
Or Giant Ivy making a joke about eating Harley after an emotional moment.

While the first season focused on Harley’s development in getting past her relationship with the Joker by trying to get into the Legion of Doom, this season starts with her in a new place both emotionally and in terms of power. While she has previously been mocked by most people for her dependence on the Joker and just generally being a female supervillain (Gotham is sexist, unlike the real wor… oh, right), Harley has shown that she is much more intelligent and capable than almost anyone else in the show. However, due to her preference for anarchy, she ends up allowing the other villains to cement power rather than just taking over the city herself, something that gives her yet another personal flaw to overcome for the season.

HarleyQuinn2 - 3Ivy
It helps when your best friend has a top-tier superpower.

I will also give the show credit that it starts averting one of the general rules for comic book shows pretty early on in this season. I won’t spoil it, but it took me by surprise (or would have, if the damn ads for the show didn’t ruin it for me). 

HarleyQuinn2 - 4Pigtails
The surprise was not “Ivy can rock the Pippy Longstocking look.”

Honestly, I recommend this show. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to watch it, since there aren’t a ton of people with DC Universe subscriptions and they won’t put the season on Amazon streaming until after the entire season is over. Still, if you can find someone with the account, you should ask to watch this show. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.