Warner Bros. // 2009 // 225 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // December 24th, 2009
Ba-bawk bawk bawk.
Here's why I'm a hypocrite: I give a show like Family Guy a whole lot of guff (that's right, GUFF!) for trading in too many pop culture references without giving them any context. There are no jokes about the references, per se; the reference itself becomes the joke. We're meant to laugh simply because we recognize something, and that's not really enough for me. I'm all for entertainment that gives me credit for being smart and well-versed in pop culture, but simply acknowledging those facts won't cut it. I want the reference to inform the joke or vice versa. That rarely happens on Family Guy, and it's one of several reasons I've never been able to get into that show.
Having said all of that, I'll admit that I adore Cartoon Network's stop-motion sketch comedy series Robot Chicken, which is overstuffed with pop culture references -- albeit references to things I love (like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or The Neverending Story). The formula is often the same: take a geeky movie, TV or toy character and involve it in some kind of graphic sexual act or horrific violence. Usually violence. Like South Park, Robot Chicken is able to get away with an incredible amount of gore and bloodshed because of its animated format (let's face it, cartoon blood is funny whereas real blood isn't). While it does a far better job of contextualizing its references than Family Guy (you have to be aware of the Masters of the Universe action figure Man-E-Faces to appreciate a gag where he changes faces to avoid a disastrous blind date), that's not always the case. Sometimes the reference is all there is, and I still don't care. I consistently laugh out loud at Robot Chicken. At 10 minutes per episode, the sketches and jokes fly by and the series never wears out its welcome; in fact, it's really easy to sit down and watch five or six episodes in a row. For someone who apparently grew up on the same diet of action figures, comic books, cartoons and movies as creators Matt Senreich and Seth Green, the show is endless fun.
Robot Chicken: Season Four isn't really any better or worse than the previous seasons; it's more of the same, and I mean that in the best possible way. Picking up immediately after the bloodbath that ended Season Three, Season Four opens with some very funny cameos from Joss Whedon and Ron Moore before launching back into the sketch comedy proper. The very funny Christmas special is included (it kicks off the second disc) in this season; otherwise, the shows are all pop culture spoofing as usual. Each episode is presented uncut on DVD, meaning all the swearing (usually bleeped on Cartoon Network broadcasts) and nudity (which is usually blurred) are present. Call me crazy, call me immature, but I think the show is actually a lot funnier with the swears intact. Hearing Skeletor drop f-bombs is funny, and you're wrong to believe otherwise.
The 20 episodes that make up Robot Chicken: Season Four are all presented in their original full frame TV aspect ratio, spread out over two discs. As with the three previous volumes of Robot Chicken on DVD, the video quality is surprisingly good. Sure, it's a bunch of action figures and toys, but the colors are strong and bright and the image always looks quite vivid. Though it's not necessarily a show that cries out for a strong visual presentation, it always provides a lot to look at and the solid video on the DVD is a nice surprise. The 2.0 stereo audio track isn't as polished as the video, but it's a perfectly serviceable delivery of the show's dialogue, jokes and often-funny songs (one of my favorites is a theme song for the line of M.A.S.K. toys from the 1980s).
Though the 20 episodes included on Robot Chicken: Season Four only run about 10 minutes apiece, the DVD set ought to keep you busy for hours just based on the volume of bonus content. Every episode comes with at least one commentary from a revolving cast of writers, animators, performers and guest stars; though not always the most informative, almost every track has an infectious group party atmosphere that makes them fun to listen to. Also included are some alternate audio tracks for a few of the sketches, plus deleted scenes and deleted animatics (for sketches that never made it to the production stage). If you're a fan of the show, they're all worth checking out.
The set also contains several "Chicken Nuggets," which are even shorter sketches that still manage to be funny. Creators Green and Senreich aren't shy about being the faces of Robot Chicken, so they show up in a majority of the bonus features: video blogs, a "day in the life" featurette (which has some cool behind-the-scenes and making-of footage, which shows that making Robot Chicken is difficult and painstaking work), footage from an Australian press tour and two very entertaining and interesting panel discussions from the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con and 2009 New York Comic-Con.
Not guilty. Action figure violence rules.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 225 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Alternate Audio
* Deleted Scenes
* Deleted Animatics
* Chicken Nuggets
* Panel Discussions
* Video Blogs
* Official Site