REVIEW: DISENCHANTMENT – PART 2

Disenchantment (2018)

MAIN CAST

Abbi Jacobson (The Lego Ninjago Movie)
Nat Faxon (Life of The Paerty)
Eric Andre (2 Broke Girls)

5tx9sHdNrv891MyKGJTTfkwplFP

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Billy West (Futurama)
Maurice LaMarche (Team America)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Matt Berry (Christopher Robin)
Jeny Batten (Discount Fitness)
Rich Fulcher (The Mighty Boosh)
Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh)
Lucy Montgomery (Badly Dubbed Porn)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

MV5BMTc0MzY1ODc2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTkxMzY2._V1_When a show follows in the footsteps of not only The Simpsons, one of the greatest (and longest-running) shows of all time, and the very funny Futurama, chances are expectations can run a little high. That’s certainly the case with Matt Groening’s latest animated offering, Disenchantment, which made its streaming debut on Netflix in the fall of 2018. The series, a familiarly irreverent take on fairytale and fantasy tropes, told primarily through the lens of a very unconventional princess named Bean (Abbi Jacobson), as she discovers her place in the world isn’t to wait for Prince Charming — or whatever pig (literally) her father has arranged for her to marry — but to carve a path on her own… or at least carve a path with her friends Elfo (Nat Faxon) and the demonic Luci (Eric André).1babdae0-bf05-11e9-a4b9-7fc396b153ea_800_420Season 1 (or Part 1) was largely concerned with fleshing out the world Bean and the other characters inhabited, particularly the kingdom of Dreamland, which she would one day rule, so long as her father, King Zøg (John DiMaggio) didn’t completely destroy it beforehand. But it was also preoccupied with the opportunity to toy with common fairytale constructs, usually turning them on their ear or poking fun at them as a demonstration of the show’s self-awareness. It worked, to an extent. Disenchantment was often capable of producing a chuckle and its three core characters — Bean, Elfo, and Luci — were an interesting enough combo, but still, something was missing.disenchantment-part-2-netflixLike most TV comedies, Disenchantment’s writers needed time to figure out what sort of comedy it was, and to get a better feel of their characters and setting before the show could truly come into its own. While there’s still some room to grow, Disenchantment Part 2 takes a considerable step forward in terms of storytelling, plotting, character development, and, above all, being laugh-out-loud funny. Sure, most viewers’ mileage may vary, but from the start, Part 2 just feels more confident in its presentation, practically from the top down. That confidence began building late in Part 1, when the story took on a more serialized nature, building on Bean’s past, her connection to her absent mother, and the fateful decision she made that not only brought Queen Dagmar (Sharon Horgan) back, but resulted in Elfo’s death and caused the population of Dreamland (minus King Zøg) to be turned to stone. Though that kind of forward momentum late in the game made the series’s early episodes look too much like unnecessary preamble, it nevertheless afforded the writers a perfect jumping off point for Part 2.disenchantment-part-2-netflixThe effect is essentially twofold: Bean is tasked not only with finding a way to bring Elfo back to the land of the living, but to also learn of her mother’s nefarious true intentions, by means of Bean’s creepy aunt and uncle in what plays a bit like a low-key spoof on Dany’s misadventures in Meereen in Game of Thrones. The circumstances are simple enough — at least for an animated comedy about a fantasy world — but they do something far more important than simply offering a sense of progression and conflict: they get Bean out of Dreamland and plop her in a series of situations where she’s no longer lamenting her life as a princess in a patriarchal society, but actively setting the course of the story and impacting the lives of her companions.FEWFWEFWith the newfound energy and sense of direction, everything in Disenchantment seems to fall into place — or, at least get closer to doing so. The series’ many jokes, pop culture references, and snarky asides are a more believable product of the character’s conversation at hand, making them feel less forced or Family Guy-like. The humor, then, becomes less a distraction and a more integral part of what makes the show work. As such, the writers are able to layer more jokes and references on top of one another without stopping to point them out. It’s still nowhere near the level of what The Simpsons was able to accomplish in its heyday, but for those in the market for a close approximation, Disenchantment will do in a pinch.UntitledAnother upside is that Disenchantment is much more bingeable in Part 2, as the easy progression and rhythms of the series’ storytelling are much more in synch with the Netflix all-at-once streaming model. It’s not just Bean who benefits either, as Elfo, Luci, and Zøg all get more significant storylines that not only rounds out their characters a bit more, but help push the overarching story along in a more satisfying way. In other words, Disenchantment Part 2 is an impressive improvement built upon the somewhat shaky foundation of Part 1, and it puts the descendent of The Simpsons and Futurama in league with some of the best adult animation available on Netflix right now.

REVIEW: DISENCHANTMENT – PART 1

Disenchantment (2018)

MAIN CAST

Abbi Jacobson (The Lego Ninjago Movie)
Nat Faxon (Life of The Paerty)
Eric Andre (2 Broke Girls)

Nat Faxon, Eric André, and Abbi Jacobson in Disenchantment (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Billy West (Futurama)
Maurice LaMarche (Team America)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Matt Berry (Christopher Robin)
Jeny Batten (Discount Fitness)
Rich Fulcher (The Mighty Boosh)
Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh)
Lucy Montgomery (Badly Dubbed Porn)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)

In the canon of shows created by Matt Groening, Netflix’s Disenchantment is markedly closer to Futurama than The Simpsons. Developed by Groening and golden age Simpsons showrunner Josh Weinstein, this foray into a medieval fantasy world starts small on a big canvas, then starts to paint outwards. Although it quickly develops into an ensemble sitcom, this approach starts with a more straightforward protagonist. As the first daughter of the financially embattled kingdom of Dreamland, Princess Bean (voiced by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson) is a single young woman who longs for some individual freedom outside of her landed status.But like Homer Simpson and Bender B. Rodriguez before her, she’s more interested in having a drink and a good time than singing to animals like other fantasy princesses. Much to the chagrin of her dad, King Zøg (John DiMaggio at his most John DiMag-nificent), Bean spends her days tooling around the kingdom and getting into misadventures with her elf friend Elfo (Nat Faxon) and her personal demon Luci (Eric Andre).4E7C158100000578-0-image-a-7_1532261217715The first season of ten episodes landed on Netflix. Unlike Groening’s previous shows, Disenchantment is lightly serialised, with more plot elements recurring across episodes than his usual network sitcom mode of restoring the status quo at the end of the half-hour. The extra-long first episode, A Princess, An Elf And A Demon Walk Into A Bar, ends on a cliffhanger that’s picked up in the following episode, but it appears as if the continuing story elements wax and wane throughout the run.disenchantment-netflix-escape-from-dreamland-excl-globalFunnily enough, the show is immediately better when it hews closer to the running time of a Netflix show. If this were going out on a traditional network, it could be even tighter, but the marked uptick in comedy from the first episode to the second is in part due to it being ten minutes shorter. Creative freedom is great and all, but like BoJack Horseman and Kimmy Schmidt before it, this shows why a quicker running time is generally a better thing for TV comedy. The other issue that Disenchantment has to overcome early on is finding a unique selling point. From Monty Python to Shrek, plenty of other creators have ploughed the fantasy-comedy trough before now, so it takes a couple of episodes for the show to find its groove.Disenchantment-photo-screenshot-600x361This is positioned as “Simpsons meets Game Of Thrones” and you can definitely see the influence of the latter show. In the first seven episodes alone, there are marriages, incestuous ruling couples, bloody coups, murderous plots, and more. Dreamland’s castle even has a handy Moon Door like the one at the Eyrie, which plays in much the same way as the trapdoor in Mr Burns’ office. Groening and Weinstein also push past their network constraints with some more violent slapstick than we’re used to seeing from their shows, even in the bloodiest Itchy & Scratchy shorts. We get a taste of this in the very first episode when Elfo leaves his happy woodland realm for the first time and learns about war by crossing the battlefield of an epic clash between gnomes and ogres, and over the following episodes, there are a number of laugh-out-loud climactic sight gags to enjoy.disenchantmentWhile the show sometimes leans a little hard on this, its most endearing quality is that it never gets overpowered by any of the weaker stuff, because it always has so much going on per episode. In the strongest, best-plotted episode of this run, Bean starts out attempting to find a job and contribute to society but winds up in the Dreamland equivalent of a slasher movie riff, which also crosses into the territory of Get Out, Indiana Jones, and a well-known Grimm fairy tale. Theshow is certainly more polished than Groenings other shows were at their outset, but it’s doomed to suffer from being compared directly to either of them. It’s not as consistently funny all the time, but it hits the ground running and its characters and style are more than entertaining enough to get us interested in further adventures.