Warner Bros. // 1996 // 470 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski (Retired) // August 8th, 2007
Brain: "Pinky, sometimes I feel as though I'm baring my soul to a tube
Pinky: "Mmmmmm, caulk..."
The existence of a cartoon as strange as Pinky and the Brain may seem about as improbable as two genetically altered lab mice taking over the world. Yet here it is, immortalized in this third and final DVD volume of episodes. Besides the zany world domination schemes that are perhaps aimed at a younger audience, for adult fans, the show also boasts enough '90s pop culture and political references to fill a warehouse. Plus, there's the dramatic romance about a sweet, sensitive, and carefree guy named Pinky forced to succumb to the brutal whims of his physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend, Brain. If you're not buying this last bit, please note that these little mouse chums share a bed:
Are you pondering what I'm pondering? I think so, Jen, but even though Pinky is bigger, I don't think Brain would let him be the outside spoon...
Pinky and the Brain has two characters and one theme. If you don't know it already, you'll catch on quickly from my descriptions of these 22 episodes in Pinky and the Brain Vol. 3:
* "Leggo My Ego" / "Big in Japan"
In 1912 Austria, Pinky and the Brain hatch a complicated hypnosis scheme targeting Freud and Emperor Franz Josef which accidentally lands Brain on the famous psychiatrist's couch. / To get access to a rare fish with paralyzing powers, Brain must become something highly unlikely for someone of his stature: a champion sumo wrestler!
* "But, That's Not All Folks!"
P&B host an infomercial for "my what an incredible product!" and capture the world's attention with their mastery of advertising clichés.
* "Operation Sea Lion" / "You Said a Mouseful"
P&B command a fleet of sea lions to try to take over the world, but Brain forgot to account for one surprising variable: interspecies romance. / Twisted tongues take a terrible toll on a team of two tiny tyrants trying to tyrannize the totality of the terrene.
* "The Tailor and The Mice" / "Bah, Wilderness"
Some old fable or song that I'm not familiar with about a tailor is adapted to include P&B. / Posing as Dr. Brain, an outdoorsman with a PHD in camping, Brain takes over "Camp Davey" and tries to influence the children of world leaders meeting at nearby Camp David.
* "Pinky at the Bat" / "Schpiel-borg 2000"
In order to gain access to a baseball field where they must release a leather-repelling gas that will prevent everyone in the world from using their wallets, P&B become star baseball players/managers. / Minor silliness ensues when P&B operate a robotic Steven Spielberg.
* "Broadway Malady"
To finance another world domination plan, Brain tries to write a hit Broadway show. But when Angst, the Musical fails to strike a chord with producers, he must choose between his art and his dictatorial ambitions.
* "Brainy the Poo" / "The Melancholy Brain"
"Brainy the Poo[h]" must steal the best honey in Acme Woods in order to supply a plan to exchange all the world's artificial sweeteners for real sweeteners. / In this Shakespearean adventure, "the play's the thing" wherein two little mice will take over the Globe [Theater].
* "Inherit the Wheeze"
An addiction to smoking threatens to interfere with Brain's satellite-related plan to take over the world, which gives him an idea for a cigarette-related plan to take over the world.
* "Brain's Night Off" / "Beach Blanket Brain"
When he learns that highly successful people make time for recreation, Brain tries to break his nightly routine and do something "fun" -- other than take over the world, of course. / "Brain Doggie" and "Pink Daddy" hit the beaches of Malibu circa 1963 to win the respect of some totally rad beach bums.
* "The Family that Poits Together, Narfs Together"
In an effort to win a morning show's "best family" contest to fund their plans for global domination, P&B locate Pinky's parents and use the gene-splicing machine to make them "intelligent."
* "Pinky's Turn" / "Your Friend: Global Domination"
Frustrated by his series of failed plans to take over the world, Brain decides to hand the reins over to Pinky for once and let him design the plan. / Brain makes a '50s-era educational filmstrip to help people adjust to his upcoming dictatorship.
* "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets in This Town Again!"
We go behind the scenes of Pinky and the Brain to observe the glamorous lives of the two tiny stars. But falling ratings demand that P&B change their show and eventually that they find other work in showbiz on everything from sitcoms to commercials to little kids' birthday parties.
* "Dangerous Brains"
Becoming a high-school teacher to fund his latest scheme (viewers: can you spot flaw-in-the-plan #1?), Mr. Brainzlowski develops a soft spot for the troubled teens of his class. Pinky fills in as a troublemaker transfer student.
* "What Ever Happened to Baby Brain" / "Just Say
A Depression-era P&B aim to turn Brain into a smash sensation (girl) child star, a la Shirley Temple, to fund their latest scheme. / Pinky sings a silly song about his favorite word to the tune of Singin' in the Rain's "Make 'Em Laugh."
* "The Pinky POV" / "The Really Great Dictator" /
A ten-minute series of "POV shots" from Pinky's perspective frames this Seattle-based grunge scheme. / Brain sings a clever little ditty about the appeal of dictatorships. / Brain opens a Planet Hollywood spoofing restaurant in order to serve IQ-boosting pizza that will make everyone smart enough to realize they should make him ruler of the world.
* "Brainwashed Pt 1: Brain, Brain, Go Away"
* "Brainwashed Pt 2: I Am Not a Hat"
* "Brainwashed Pt 3: Wash Harder"
In this very unusual three-parter, P&B play the heroes rather than the villains when they try to foil rather than enact a plan to take over the world.
* "To Russia with Lab Mice" / "Hickory Dickory Bonk"
Brain arranges for he and Pinky to be shipped to Russia under the pretense of being test subjects at a Russian toy company, but actually so that they can contaminate the world's supply of caviar. Along the way, they meet a sexy but deadly female lab mouse and riff on lots of spy themes. / P&B narrate their brief, clock-dependent attempt to take over the world through rhyme and song.
* "The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special"
Brain edits together a reunion special for Pinky and the Brain, a show that "doesn't exist," in order to snare viewers into watching the hypnotic beam he will transmit through the broadcast.
* "A Legendary Tail" / "Project Brain"
P&B try to garner fame and fortune alongside the likes of Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill as tall-tale legends. / We revisit the first few days of P&B's life as "intelligent" lab mice, right after their trip through the gene splicer, in a series of flashbacks.
* "Star Warners"
Those wacky dudes and dudettes from Animaniacs guest star for a straight-up Star Wars parody, with our title characters as the series' sassy robots.
Special Feature: "It's All About the Fans"
The first thing one has to realize to enjoy the semi-mature goofiness of Pinky and the Brain, Vol. 3 is that Brain will never take over the world. Even in the unlikely event that everything will go as planned, Brain's original schemes will never actually result in his installation as global dictator. If the plots were logic problems, in other words, one would pretty much always find flaws in the premises themselves. Can one imagine any successful world domination scheme, for example, that begins with a tiny mouse becoming a champion sumo wrestler in a large, robotic suit? The absurdity of the plans is a big part of the fun, and often just a plot device to get P&B into place in their outlandish roles of the week: they might be baseball players, secret agents, camp counselors, sweethearts of the sliver screen, or high school teachers.
By the end of the final season, you can see that the writers were scraping the bottom of the zany-schemes barrel, resulting in a few very unfortunate episodes. The worst offenders are the short-segment songs. Don't even bother watching "The Tailor and the Mice" or "Just Say Narf" if you're over the age of nine.
The parody episodes are hit or miss. Some, like "Star Warners" are lazy and overdone. Others are a lot funnier and more sophisticated. "Broadway Malady" has some great Abbott and Costello-type humor and the gloriously excruciating Brain-penned Angst, the Musical. "Brainy the Poo" is an unbelievable smorgasbord of some of the craziest pop-culture references the show has ever produced. It's hard to believe that a show that a "kids' show" can get away with cramming this many characters into an episode that kids will be completely baffled by. A giant-lipped Tigger recalls Mic Jagger, Algore the donkey mirrors the famously boring vice-president, a Christopher Walken rendering parodies his creepy monologue from Annie Hall as Christopher Robin, and then Brainy the Poo must face off against "the scariest, most intimidating bee of them all" -- Bea Arthur! If this episode sounds like it's on crack, check out the first part of the three-part "Brainwashed," in which Brain has a hallucination of a town in which citizens lives in giant hats and are named after the hats they constantly wear. Thus, Brain is known as "Porkpie" for the rest of the episode and Pinky becomes "Fez."
But the best episodes of the season are actually the ones that willfully depart from the "same thing we do every night" formula. "Brain's Night Off" gives us a peek at the softer side of The Brain while "Pinky's Turn" is a delightful little portion of irony that proves one can take over the world by selling oysters and forcing citizens to wear shiny pants.
Part of what make the silly formula of Pinky and the Brain work is the enjoyable interplay between the voices of Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (The Brain). Pinky's boisterous quavering, ridiculous accent and trademark exclamations ("Narf! Poit!") are the perfect complement to the more subdued Orson Welles-type intonations of The Brain ("Yes!"). And who wouldn't have fun delivery Brainy lines like, "If I weren't so fatigued, I would lambaste you?" The animation quality doesn't quite live up to the vocal performances, though the sheer variety of locales and costumes gives the animators a lot to play with and some of the results are really fun, like the storybook world of "Brainy the Poo:"
Some scratches and flecks on the picture are the only major technical problems I noticed on this disc, though picture and sound quality are about what you'd expect for a '90s cartoon. The only extra is a 12-minute featurette that includes interviews with a few fans at a comics convention and a sit-down chat with Paulsen and LaMarche. The latter man dominates the conversation, which is mostly about the smart and famous people who watch Pinky and the Brain.
A very memorable premise (and theme song!) may convince nostalgic viewers to check out Pinky and the Brain, Vol. 3. Those who do will be treated to a tidal wave of now-obscure cultural references of the '90s and lots of antics involving mice on conveyor belts. It's a strange mix, to be sure, but the set is definitely worth some selective viewing.
Guilty of attempted world domination -- multiple counts.
Review content copyright © 2007 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 470 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "It's All About the Fans" featurette
* Volume One Review
* Volume Two Review