Zoidberg (Billy West) has been online dating an alien woman named Zindy (Tress MacNeille). Fry, Bender, and Leela (West, John DiMaggio, and Katey Sagal) help Zoidberg clean out his dumpster and a bug bomb leads Bender to be discovered by Fry’s friend Randy (DiMaggio), who invites Bender to try tap dancing. Zoidberg buys some flowers for Zindy, but when she meets him, she can’t stand the way he smells and leaves him. Zoidberg tries to return the flowers to the florist, Marianne (Emilia Clarke), who reveals that she cannot give him a refund as she is broke. The pair are attacked by Roberto (David Herman), but Zoidberg’s stench drives him away. Marianne is impressed by his bravery, revealing she has no sense of smell, and the two begin to date. At the same time, Bender discovers that a six-year-old tap dancer with a heart condition named Tonya (Tara Strong) is his main rival. He attempts to defeat her through cheating, only for her to break his leg with a baton.
Zoidberg is happy with Marianne, but she laments being unable to smell. Zoidberg agrees to give her a nose transplant after initially hiding it from her, even though it means that she will likely break up with him immediately. Bender asks for help with his broken leg, but Zoidberg is too busy prepping to do Marianne’s surgery. As Bender and Tonya try to compete, she mocks him mercilessly and ends up winning. In the middle of her award speech, she has a heart attack and dies. Bender dances on her corpse, but inadvertently revives her, causing the audience to love him. Marianne awakens and smells something horrible when Zoidberg brings her flowers, but she realizes that she hates the smell of the flowers, not Zoidberg. She points out that she loves the way Zoidberg smells, because she loves him. She becomes a garbage truck driver and they live happily ever after, I assume.
I genuinely love this episode because it finally gives Zoidberg the happy ending that he mostly deserves. It’s true that Zoidberg is sometimes a jerk, but most of the time he gets hit with a lot more than he has merited. He lives in a dumpster because he’s poor despite the fact that, according to Farnsworth, he’d be a great doctor if he was on any planet other than Earth. Even more, he’s only here because he’s friends with Farnsworth, despite the fact that Farnsworth doesn’t pay him enough to live indoors. It’s really sad when you think about it, particularly since we’ve had multiple episodes about Zoidberg being forever alone. This episode finally gives him happiness and does it in a genuinely sweet way, especially when you realize that he is willing to sacrifice his relationship to help the woman he loves. As the penultimate episode, this one gives us closure on Zoidberg and that just leaves Fry and Leela for the finale.
I will also add that I think the subplot about Bender fighting a young tap dancer who Tonya Hardings him is hilarious. Bender, who is a vicious competitor and an outright criminal, still calls her a monster and, moreover, appears to be correct. It’s hilarious to watch Bender be outdone by a small child. It’s even funnier to watch him dance on the dead body of a small child and for him to be horrified that he accidentally resurrects her. It’s really among the lowest things Bender has ever done, although it does lead to their odd friendship and partnership.
Overall, solid episode. One more to go!
The bug bombs that they use to get rid of the roaches in Zoidberg’s dumpster are called “Hal’s Roach Bombs.” This is a reference to Hal Roach, the director of several Laurel and Hardy films, as well as the creator of the Our Gang series, better known now as The Little Rascals. The bug bomb’s slogan is, hilariously, “Kills the Little Rascals.” Look, if you can’t laugh at jokes about killing characters from the 1920s, what can you laugh at?
See you next week, meatbags.
PREVIOUS – Episode 126: Murder on the Planet Express
Let’s just admit that this is the best Scooby-Doo movie.
Mystery, Inc. has broken up. Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman) has a hit TV show with her cameraman Fred (Frank Welker). To celebrate Daphne’s birthday and her new supernatural investigation series, Fred invites Velma (B.J. Ward), Shaggy (Billy West), and Scooby-Doo (Scott Innes) to reunite for one last ride. Unfortunately, despite looking for ghosts, all the gang finds are people in suits trying to steal things. The gang eventually winds up in New Orleans where a woman named Lena (Tara Strong) invites them to see Moonscar Island where her employer, Simone Lenoir (Adrienne Barbeau) has a real haunted house. The gang starts to encounter some strange happenings, but is it ghosts or a hoax? Hint: It ain’t a hoax.
Between 1969 and the present, there have only been 9 years in which no new Scooby-Doo media was released. Six of those years were between the end of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in 1991 and this movie. The franchise was potentially on its last legs, aside from Cartoon Network’s occasional reruns and its annual 25 hours of Scooby-Doo marathon. But, it did well enough on repeats for the network to give this film a shot. It was assembled by people who had mostly worked on more serious shows than the traditional Scooby-Doo, like Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron. In fact, this film was basically a recycling of an unused script from that show. Because of that, this movie went in a new direction for the franchise: Legitimately kind of dark.
It’s not just that the zombies are real in this movie, it’s that by this point in their careers, Fred, Daphne, and Velma no longer even consider the possibility that magic could be real. While there had been some real ghosts or monsters in some previous Scooby-Doo works, most of them involved Scrappy-Doo instead of the human gang. When Velma and Fred encounter things that seem supernatural, they immediately move to debunking it, comparing it to other times that they’ve dealt with manufactured mysticism. The only ones who still appear to be humoring the idea of real ghosts are Shaggy and Scooby, which makes it better that they’re the first ones to encounter the zombies, because no one believes them. Despite the fact that the zombies are real, though, there is still a legitimate mystery as to why they’re attacking and how they came to be.
The soundtrack to this film is great. The theme song was performed by Third Eye Blind and there were two original songs in the film composed by the band Skycycle, “The Ghost is Here” and “It’s Terror Time Again.” I sometimes still find myself humming the latter whenever I see any kind of horror montage. That’s actually part of why I picked this film, even though the request was actually for “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.” The other part was that the only movie of 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo came out recently, and it was not great.
Since this film came out, Scooby-Doo has had five more series and thirty-eight more films, including Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, one of my favorite series ever, and it would not have been possible without this film reminding people that the franchise still had untapped potential. If you ever had any love for Scooby-Doo, give this film a try. If you have never seen Scooby-Doo, this is the best pond to dip your toe in.
Rick and Morty get bored working for the President and start a small war while Beth goes through an existential crisis.
The President of the United States (Keith David) calls Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland) to the White House to deal with a monster in the tunnels under the building. Rick and Morty arrive and shoot the very small alien, which runs away, but the two decline to chase it, preferring instead to go home and play Minecraft. Unfortunately, the President catches them lying about still being at work and yells at them. They end up severing their relationship with the President after he points out that he constantly overlooks all the laws they break in exchange for saving the world and Rick points out that the US Government couldn’t stop him anyway, so he doesn’t need them to overlook anything.
Meanwhile, Beth (Sarah Chalke) is concerned that she is actually a clone, given Rick’s offer to her in the last episode. It doesn’t help that, in her mind, choosing to stay has made her happier, so her behavior towards Summer (Spencer Grammer) has been noticeably friendlier. Beth calls Rick to ask if she’s a clone, but no answer he gives can convince her and he also doesn’t try very hard. However, she becomes paranoid that if she is the clone and is self-aware, Rick has to kill her.
A miniature nuclear-capable civilization is discovered in the Brazilian rainforest. Rick and Morty go to investigate, but the President arrives claiming jurisdiction… over Brazil. The President attempts to capture Rick and Morty and goes on to shrink himself and head towards the civilization, but Rick quickly escapes. When the President arrives at the small civilization, dubbed Megagargantuans, he finds that Rick and Morty already made it there and negotiated a peace treaty with their Presidentress (Tara Strong, I think?). He declares war on Rick and Morty, who respond by creating peace in the Middle East and giving the credit to the President. The President finds Rick and Morty in the Oval Office insisting on a selfie with him and orders the Secret Service to arrest them, resulting in Rick indirectly or directly killing almost all of the Agents. He and the President then engage in a sci-fi battle through the White House, destroying huge amounts of property.
Beth goes to see Jerry (Chris Parnell) in order to get him to confirm that she’s the real Beth. He ends up kissing her, she recognizes his unconditional love as something she needs, and they reconcile.
While Rick and the President are fighting, Morty leaves and takes Rick’s portal gun, intent on hiding his family now that they’re back together. Rick concedes defeat to the President and asks for his help teleporting to the Smiths’ hiding place. Beth tries to reason with Rick to leave them alone and not kill her for being a clone, but Rick claims she’s the real Beth and ultimately comes back to the family despite Jerry returning. Rick considers leaving for another dimension, but Summer demonstrates she can now fart on cue, something that apparently convinces him to try again. He pretends to leave and arrive as a new version of himself in a fly-fishing hat in order to mend his relationship with the President. At home, Beth rejoices that the family has a new, better start, unless she’s a clone (something Rick doesn’t laugh at).
This wasn’t a great season finale. It’s a solid episode of the show, but for what was supposed to be the “darkest season,” it really goes out on a fairly unimpressive note. I do have to acknowledge that it probably was due to Cartoon Network ordering the season to be cut down from Dan Harmon’s original desired length, something that forced them to adapt a quick end to the plot threads. Still, it’s just only okay as an episode by Rick and Morty standards.
The highlight of the episode is definitely the fight between Rick and the President, because it just keeps escalating in all the funniest ways. It’s basically a Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd cartoon on a small amount of acid and that is damned entertaining. It’s made even better by the fact that, in this episode, Rick overall has helped the President massively, something that annoys him even more than outright antagonism, much like when Bugs Bunny would kiss Elmer to spite him. Here’s the total of what Rick does to/for the President: Refuses to deal with what is essentially a rodent problem, lies about working, negotiates a peace treaty, negotiates another peace treaty, makes the President the most popular figure on the globe, asks for a selfie. The President responds by declaring war on them, on the grounds that there cannot be a god that doesn’t bend to the will of the US, something that is insane on so many levels but also true on several others. In the same vein, all of the escalations in this episode are simultaneously ridiculous and also believable.
The B-Plot of Beth is… well, covered below in the theory, so I’ll just leave it there, but it really just seemed rushed.
The final resolution of resetting everything to Season 1 feels slightly rushed, mostly because Beth, a character who had just spent an episode discovering her identity and potential independence ended up just choosing to go back to her previous life. I understand that the logic is that this time she actually chose it, rather than feeling forced into it by getting pregnant with Summer, but it still felt like they just had to hit the “wrap it up” button on the season.
I did like the stinger with Mr. Poopybutthole (Roiland), particularly the fact that he takes a blatant shot at most of the audience by showing that he is perpetually moving on with his life, even if he’s not in the show proper. As someone whose life frequently stagnates, I thought that was appropriate.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
The plotline about Beth potentially being a clone continues in this episode and seemingly resolves, but, given that Rick lies about anything that would make his life more difficult, we could still find out that he’s lying. So, despite my normal reticence to do theories that I know are popular amongst the fandom, I submit the following:
Beth’s not a clone.
What is my justification? Well, it’s admittedly rather light, but the key is in Rick’s statements about the clone in the last episode. He stated that the clone would not be able to “go Blade Runner” on her. If you haven’t seen Blade Runner and don’t get the reference, the Cliff’s Notes version is that it means that the clone won’t develop a knowledge of its own nature leading it to rebel against its creator. Why would Rick then even allow a clone of Beth to consider the possibility that she’s a clone? We know that Rick can pretty easily manipulate memories; there’s an entire episode about it. There’s absolutely no reason why Rick should even have allowed the clone to remember the choice being given to Beth. One could argue that he wanted to give the clone the knowledge of the choice and therefore make it happier the way that Beth is within the episode, but Rick should understand that this was quickly going to result in an existential crisis. It’s actually odd that Beth, who in the last episode was shown making a series of complicated logical deductions, didn’t arrive at the same conclusion, but I guess we needed her and Jerry to get back together for plot reasons.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Like I said, this isn’t the best episode of the show and it isn’t a good season finale, but it isn’t the worst episode either.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
Rick and Morty take a spa day and almost destroy the world with their toxicity.
Rick (Justin Roiland) picks Morty (Roiland) up from school for what he claims will be a short adventure, but it ends up taking days and almost killing both of them. The two are so stressed they both almost have mental breakdowns, resulting in Rick saying they deserve a vacation. The two go to an alien spa and have a full round of relaxing treatments, including going into a final machine which is supposed to “completely remove” their toxins. The pair quickly find themselves in a toxic, gooey world filled with monsters. They believe that the machine exploded and took the spa with it, but they discover the truth: They’re not the real Rick and Morty. They’re the toxic parts that were separated from Rick and Morty, who are currently headed home. Toxic Rick starts to plot a way out of the horror world.
Morty discovers that the detox has removed all of his insecurities, making him confident and popular. He even manages to get a date with Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), his crush, but the date goes terribly due to Morty’s sociopathic overconfidence. He proceeds to rebound with a girl named Stacy (Tara Strong), but when he takes her back to the house, he finds that Rick has been receiving messages from the Toxic World and is preparing to re-merge himself and Morty with their toxic counterparts. Morty believes Toxic Rick could be lying and gets Stacy to save him, which turns out to be the right move as Toxic Rick was planning on just taking their place and not re-merging. Rick and Toxic Rick fight, with both evenly matched, until Toxic Rick decides it’d be easier to make the whole world toxic like him.
Rick at first refuses to stop Toxic Rick, saying that he can’t assert his own beliefs on what gets destroyed or saved, but Morty slaps him and Rick suddenly realizes something: The toxic parts were removed based on the user’s definition of toxicity. Toxic Rick uses two miniverse batteries and a moonlight tower to turn the world toxic, making everyone terrible. Rick arrives and reveals that the Toxic version got one thing Rick defines as toxic: Irrational attachments to people. He then shoots Toxic Morty, threatening to kill him if they don’t voluntarily re-merge. Toxic Rick agrees, but then Morty flees, not wanting his weaknesses back. Toxic Morty dies, but Rick preserves his essence.
Weeks later, Morty is a top salesman at a New York brokerage firm. He’s living with an attractive woman in an expensive apartment, but receives a call from Jessica asking him to come back. He knows it’s a trap, but he fails to hang up the phone and Rick and Jessica find him and turn him into his former self. He later sees Jessica at school and she says it’s good to have him back.
This episode has an interesting take on the traditional Jekyll and Hyde story. Rather than being split into “good” and “evil,” this is actually closer to the aim of the original story by having the two halves separated by what urges the original wants to suppress. Jekyll wants his violent tendencies gone, Rick wants his arrogance and his irrationality gone. Morty, on the other hand, wants all of his weaknesses gone, something that makes him much more traditionally evil than he was before, resulting in him being what appears to be Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s basically what happens when you apply moral relativism into the trope.
Interestingly, when we see “toxic world,” it actually appears to be less based around emphasizing the traits that the people are trying to suppress and instead to be based more around bringing out everyone’s id, making them all mindlessly aggressive, hypersexual, and cruel. One particularly notable remark is made by Father Bob (William Holmes) when he becomes toxic: “God is a lie. We made him up for money!” Even if that is what Bob actually believes, it’s unlikely that he believes the part of him that would admit God is a scam would be the “toxic” part of him. Also, a bunch of children go cannibalistic, and I don’t think that’s something kids would define as toxic, because children would kill you if they were bigger than you and they like thinking about it. NEVER TRUST CHILDREN.
A few fun things from this episode:
One is that Toxic Rick uses Miniverse Batteries from the Microverse in “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” rather than Rick’s typical Microverse Battery to power his invention, which suggests that one of Rick’s toxic traits is his desire not to use other people’s work. Apparently Rick had more respect for Zeep Zanflorp’s design than he thought. Also, Toxic Rick is a monster because he apparently burns out both of those universes when he makes the world toxic, meaning he just committed omnicide twice over.
Another thing is what I am convinced is the most obscure joke this show has done, when Morty asks Rick if he’s familiar with “Ben Wa” technology. First, this is a reference to Ben Wa balls, which are small balls (or smooth oval objects) which are used for sexual stimulation of the vagina. Since Morty’s clearly with a kinky girl when he asks the question, that makes sense. However, I believe that the way he asks it is also a reference to Hubert Benoit, the French Psychotherapist whose work foreshadowed integral psychology and integral spirituality, both of which involve using both of the good and bad traits within an individual to address the whole of a person. Considering that’s what most of this episode is about, that would be pretty much a perfect in-joke. Or maybe it really is just about shoving balls inside someone and I’m overthinking it. There’s a sentence I don’t think gets written enough.
The fight between Rick and Toxic Rick is hilarious to me and I think there are some solid lines from the overconfident American Psycho Morty. This is a pretty good episode.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Okay, so, this is actually more of a rebuttal to a complaint that people repeatedly made about this episode: That Rick reveals that he doesn’t have any of his irrational attachments and yet he still acts like he loves Morty even more than usual. I must have heard a half-dozen reviewers complain about it like it’s a glaring flaw in the episode and I’m here to say that no, it’s not, it’s just weird and complicated.
Here’s the thing: When Rick first realizes that the machine separated out the things that HE decided were toxic, he’s surprised to realize that he doesn’t have any irrational attachments to Morty anymore. Despite that, earlier in the episode Rick says that he’s proud to be Morty’s grandfather. How is it possible that Rick can feel pride in Morty but not have an irrational attachment?
When Rick lists to Toxic Rick what has gone over in the transfer, he says that Toxic Rick has his entitlement, narcissism, crippling loneliness, and his irrational attachments. The thing is that an “irrational” attachment is something that would lead Rick to put the welfare of Morty so high that he would not be able to continue to make rational decisions. That’s not to say that Rick doesn’t value Morty’s welfare, but it’s only to the extent that Morty’s welfare provides a rational benefit to Rick. Similarly, we see Morty tell Rick he loves him, despite getting rid of most of his insecurities and emotional weaknesses. That’s because Morty only got rid of his vulnerabilities, which is to say that he got rid of his ability to love Rick so much that he allows Rick to convince him to do things against his self interest. He can still love Rick, but it’s not in a way that would ever be consider selfless.
LEAVING THE CORNER
So, most of you probably have heard that Season 4 has been announced. Some of you might also have realized that this blog ends the week before the first episode of the new season airs. That’s because Dan Harmon actually asked me to start this blog and has been providing me with these theories as part of a guerrilla marketing scheme.
Kidding, I’m just psyched for Season 4 and the scheduling kinda worked out. I look forward to reviewing it. Take it easy, kids.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
Netflix spent three seasons adapting one of the most dark and interesting children’s series ever written.
A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the lives of the three Baudelaire Orphans: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith/Tara Strong). Violet is a brilliant inventor and engineer, Klaus is a polymath with a love of reading, and Sunny… is a baby that bites things hard. After their parents are killed in a fire, the three are sent to live with their distant relative, the evil Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a terrible actor who would never have been allowed to play Doogie Howser. Throughout the series, the Baudelaires try to find a place to hide safely from Count Olaf and his troupe of evil actors while making their way through the macabre world in which the series is set. All of the events are narrated from the future by Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton).
The series is basically divided into two types of adventures: Either the children are taken in by an eccentric/flat-out insane caretaker and attacked by a disguised Olaf or they’re on the run from Olaf and forced to hide in some insane location. The key is that nothing in this world quite operates on real logic, instead operating on the principle that basically everyone is off-kilter and, in most cases, anachronistic. The main characters are often the only sane people within any situation, pointing out that what most of the supporting characters are doing is either stupid or crazy, but, being children, they’re constantly ignored.
The setting for the series is intensely gothic, much in the style of Tim Burton or Barry Sonnenfeld… but more the latter because he’s the one that produces the show. Colors are largely muted, buildings tend to be in the gothic style, and the music often is best described as “eerie as hell.” The time-period for the series is completely nonsensical, with black-and-white movies and telegraph lines being commonplace, while also having jokes about streaming internet services.
The tone is one of the darkest forms of comedy that you can put in a show ostensibly for children. People die frequently in this show, often in horrifying ways, and yet the spin on their deaths is usually very comical, because most of the characters refuse to react to death rationally. It also helps that Lemony Snicket is constantly adding levity and sarcasm into the series by addressing the audience directly with some off-the-cuff and off-the-wall observation. Since Snicket’s observations were one of the signature elements of the book series, it’s nice that they managed to work it into the show fairly organically.
The acting in the show is phenomenal, although the way that the dialogue is presented will turn some people off. Neil Patrick Harris is a standout, matching Jim Carrey’s fabulous performance from the film adaptation, while still managing not to duplicate it too much. Harris sings the great theme song to the series “Look Away” which he sings in a different voice whenever he portrays a character in the episode, with the lyrics changing from book to book. They also find some excuses for Harris to let out his broadway side, something that, while it does make it harder to believe Olaf is a terrible actor, is too entertaining to pass up.
The downsides, if they are downsides, of the show are that, because of the nature of the medium, there are fewer of the wonderful ambiguities and hidden messages that permeated the books. Things that in the book series were left up to the reader to deduce are almost all made explicit. Additionally, some of the added scenes and characters are actually more positive than the rest of the tone of the show, possibly because it’s just so depressing to watch something that’s absurdist and, largely, hopeless. Frankly, it didn’t bother me, but I have heard a few fans of the books complaining.
However, there are two things this show does differently than most series that I really hope lead to its success. First, the villains are the ones shunning knowledge, while the heroes are the ones who seek it. A problem with the recurring trope of a criminal mastermind is that you have to make the villain the smart one, which often results in them making the hero a brawny dumbass. Think Lex Luthor versus Superman or Loki versus Thor (though neither Superman nor Thor are stupid, they’re not as smart as their opponents). This show 100% goes the other way, saying that the act of reading, learning, and exploring inherently makes someone more empathetic and therefore more ethical. Btw, studies suggest that this is generally true, reading makes you more empathetic (though not always as everyone thinks).
Second, the show ends up pointing out one of the most difficult truths in the world: People aren’t all good or all bad. People are almost all morally ambiguous, falling somewhere on the scale between “hero” and “villain” or, within the series, between “volunteer” and “villain.” Everyone tends to think they’re a hero of their own story, but that’s likely the product of their own moral relativism: we define good as what we do, rather than defining good as good and then doing it. The show does a great job of exploring this concept.
Overall, I loved this series and I’m sad that it’s over. It’s only 25 episodes, total, so you should take a weekend or a week to watch it.
Rick and Morty deal with an infestation of memory-altering parasites that take the form of wacky sitcom characters.
Rick (Justin Roiland) returns home to the family to find Jerry’s (Chris Parnell) goofy older brother “Uncle Steve” (Tony Barbieri) at the table. Rick then shoots Steve, who is revealed to be an alien parasite that manipulates people’s memories. Rick warns that there are probably more of them and that they take on the role of wacky, zany characters. He’s supported by Mr. Poopybutthole (Roiland), a wacky, zany character who is now in the opening credits.
Rick locks the house down, writes down that there are only 6 people in the apartment, and puts the note on the wall, but soon a number of characters start appearing, including a Mr. Belvedere-style butler named Mr. Beauregard (Barbieri), Frankenstein’s Monster (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Summer’s (Spencer Grammer) magical ballerina lamb friend Tinkles (Tara Strong). All of the characters are introduced through “flashbacks” that resemble Family Guy cutaway gags. Rick and the Smith family soon are uncertain who is real, because, although the new characters are wacky and zany, so are the actual members of the Sanchez-Smith family.
Eventually, Rick is threatening to shoot everyone and the parasites convince Morty (Roiland), Beth (Sarah Chalke), and Summer that Rick is a parasite… while also convincing Jerry that he’s a parasite and in a secret gay relationship with another parasite named Sleepy Gary (Matt Walsh). Morty is selected to execute Rick, but Morty realizes that the parasites cannot implant bad memories into people’s heads and shoots several of the parasites. Together, Rick, Morty, and the family go through the house, killing all of the parasites until only the family and Mr. Poopybutthole are left. Back at dinner, Beth shoots Mr. Poopybutthole who is revealed to not be a parasite. She tries to apologize at the hospital, but he declines to talk to her, saying only that he’s sorry that she doesn’t have any bad memories of him.
This episode is basically a hilarious parody of so many sitcom tropes at the same time that it almost matches the number of wacky characters. The idea that failing shows add off-kilter new characters to try and bring back some energy to the series is so old that The Simpsons did an episode about it featuring Homer (Dan Castellaneta) playing a new Itchy-and-Scratchy character called Poochie while also having a new “rad teen” character living in their house. That was in 1997. For the most part, this trope has been declining quite a bit in the past twenty years specifically because people started mocking it so ruthlessly. Still, this episode takes it and combines it with the “family member that has not previously been referenced” trope, but makes it into a sadistic infiltration plot by these shapeshifting, memory-altering parasites.
It presents each of the parasites in a cutaway style much like Family Guy tends to use, which may be a shot at how modern shows always tend to play loose with continuity for the sake of making gags. Or maybe it was just funnier that way. Also, the characters get progressively more unconventional as the show goes on, following the typical trend on television writing that each character introduced tends to be incrementally crazier or more abnormal than the previous one, similar to “Flanderization.” We start off with the “goofy brother,” move to the stereotype cousin, and slowly continue until we have a Baby Wizard, a photography Raptor, and a Ghost in a Jar. The idea that the only way to find the “real” people is by finding terrible memories might be a shot at other shows for trying to keep sanitized backstories as opposed to Rick and Morty‘s gritty humor.
Mr. Poopybutthole being real is one of the best set-ups in television. It’s not the reveal itself. It’s HOW they decided to reveal it. It’s such a perfectly Rick and Morty tone shift that works so well because it’s a subversion of a subversion. The basic joke throughout the whole thing was that Mr. Poopybutthole was clearly an alien shapeshifter that had entered the show, while the twist is that he actually isn’t. This is even foreshadowed by the fact that he’s in the opening sequence, many of which are “bad memories” which the parasites can’t generate or alter. But the show then decides to take the shooting seriously, rather than as a comical error. They blow past any attempt to make a joke out of it and treat it like a REAL SHOOTING, despite the fact that, not 2 minutes beforehand, we’d been laughing at the ways that the Smith-Sanchez family was eliminating all of the wacky shapeshifters. So, even if you saw the twist coming, you almost certainly didn’t see how it would play out. It’s something many shows would never even consider, let alone pull off this well.
Also, can we just acknowledge that so many of the parasites are just inherently funny? Pencilvestyr? Reverse giraffe (voiced by Keith Freakin’ David)? Hamurai? Amish Cyborg? These are such great puns and sight gags. Their quips are also hilarious, including Frankenstein’s Monster’s line “I was on the wrong side of the pitchfork on this one.” The subplot where the Sleepy Gary parasite not only makes himself Beth’s husband and the parents of Morty and Summer but also makes himself Jerry’s secret lover is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Well, I was going to do a theory about what Mr. Poopybutthole is, but unfortunately Dan Harmon has already addressed that issue, saying that Mr. Poopybutthole is just a higher form of the memory parasites, so evolved that he can break the fourth wall and put himself directly into the show’s history when he wants.
I already declined to address the popular theory that this episode, as well as the majority of “Mortynight Run,” follow a different Rick and Morty, since Dan Harmon also confirmed that the rocks in this episode are the same as the ones seen in that one and that they’re what carried the parasites.
Instead, I’m going to ask: Were the parasites the point?
So, we know that Rick has dealt with these parasites before, because he immediately recognizes what they are. He shoots “Uncle Steve” after only a few seconds, based on Jerry’s claim that he had been living there, but why was “shapeshifting memory-altering parasite” the first thing that Rick thought of? Because Rick had wanted the parasites. Think about it, Rick had brought that specific rock in from the garage, looking disappointed at it as he throws it away. When we first see him in Mortynight Run loading the car with rocks, he has a huge number, but he only throws away the one that had the parasites.
I think that Rick had brought the rock back not to harness the rocks (though that might have been a bonus), but because the rocks potentially were going to breed the parasites which he could then use to his advantage. After all, we know from the previous episode that Rick regularly captures and imprisons aliens for the purpose of exploiting them, and the ability to freely manipulate memories would be useful to anyone, particularly Rick. While in the garage, clearly, one or two of them hatched and escaped, with the first becoming “Uncle Steve.” Meanwhile, Rick determines that the rock is defective and throws it away, only to discover that the parasite inside it has escaped.
Am I saying that the only evidence I have for this is that Rick knows what the shapeshifting parasites are and that he looks disappointed when he chucks out the rock? No, it’s that he doesn’t wing Uncle Steve. When Rick shoots Cousin Nicky, the second parasite, he shoots him in the shoulder because he’s unsure he’s a parasite, but when Rick shoots Steve, it’s straight through the temple. Rick is absolutely sure that Steve is a parasite. Could it be that Rick just knows that Jerry doesn’t have a brother? Unlikely, as A) this isn’t Rick’s original Jerry so it could be a possibility even if the original didn’t and B) Rick routinely proves he knows almost nothing about Jerry’s life, including not knowing what decade Jerry was born in (despite him being roughly Beth’s age). Is it that Jerry says Steve has been staying there for a year? Well, that’s likely to be what clinched it, but do you really think that’s enough to make Rick risk executing a potential family member? It’s Rick, so it’s not impossible, but I still think it’s likely that something made him think that parasites were the likely source of the new brother.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Since most of Rick and Morty is based on humor within the framework of nihilism and existential dread, I shouldn’t be surprised that this episode about how memory is the only way to really define our existence that involves wacky characters is one of my favorites.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.
Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.
SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)
So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.
First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.
Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.
Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.
It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.
The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.
As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.
Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.
If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.