Warner Bros. // 2007 // 225 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // October 27th, 2008
Seth Green and his band of sociopathic toys return for more uncensored mayhem on Robot Chicken: Season Three.
Robot Chicken features stop-motion animated action figures voiced by series regulars and celebrities in short comedy sketches. Very short: Each episode runs just over 10 minutes and features around a dozen sketches of varying lengths.
The logical extension of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and South Park, not to mention comic strips like The Far Side, Robot Chicken references a quarter-century or so of pop-culture, skewering it in ways that are sometimes clever and sometimes puerile -- often both.
Much of Robot Chicken is genuinely funny. The Christmas special ("Robot Chicken's Half-Assed Christmas Special," to be precise) features an inspired parody of A Charlie Brown Christmas that teams up the classic special with Stephen King's Misery and the both the '60's and '90's incarnations of Batman. This same episode contains a tries-too-hard-to-be-irreverent retelling of the Nativity story featuring flatulent animals. This is pretty much par for the course of Robot Chicken: Lots of gross-for-gross-sake humor with some near-brilliance tossed into the mix.
Too often, the show goes for "shock humor" -- toys cursing, having sex, and (frequently and graphically) killing and maiming each other. While this is very funny at first -- and probably much more effective when only catching it in 10-minute bits -- watching sketch after sketch of it on DVD does get a little tiresome. The shows are presented uncensored, with every expletive coming through loud and clear. I'm guessing that when these were broadcast, they had so many bleeps that they sounded like Morse Code.
Robot Chicken: Season Three contains 20 episodes. They all have titles ("Endless Breadsticks" or "Moesha Poppins," for instance), but except for the Christmas special, the titles are just jokes that have nothing to do with the content. The shows look and sound fine (full frame transfers, stereo sound), nothing great, but no one's going to pick up this set for its technical excellence. Every episode has a commentary featuring a rotating group of cast, crew, and guest stars -- one might feature a couple of the writers, Matthew Seinreich, and Hayden Panettiere; another might have Seth Green, an animator, an f/x person, and Stan Lee. All the commentaries are goofy and gag-laden. But then, everything about this set is goofy and gag-laden.
In addition to the commentaries, we get a "gag reel" -- shots of toys committing violent acts to make you gag! Get it? A few episodes feature "Chicken Nuggets," wherein you press the "Enter" button on your remote, and you are magically transported to a set with Seth Green and Matthew Seinreich (or Tom Root and Kevin Shinick) talking about the episode. It's a little cumbersome, and I'm not quite sure why this same information couldn't have been provided as part of a commentary.
There are deleted scenes in the form of storyboards, with introductions as to why they were deleted, and deleted animatics -- puppets that didn't make the cut. Seth Green takes us on a tour of the studio, and a series of video blogs, hosted by "Behind-the-Scenes-Guy" Andrew Racho gives us a minute or so with various contributors.
Weirdly, subtitles are not accessible from the remote on Disc One, but they are accessible from the remote on Disc Two.
What's clear is how much fun everyone involved with Robot Chicken is having, and truly, it does seem like the best college-geek A/V project ever. You can use toys to animate all kinds of cool stuff and provide your voice for the snarky and funny lines, and you've got celebrities providing their voices too. You can show your literacy acumen by doing a quick blackout of a pig standing under a spider web that has "$4.99 a pound" woven into it or a segment showing why the Last Unicorn really is the end of the line. You can riff on Thundercats, Transformers, Sheena, the guys from Grease singing a gay-sex version of "Greased Lightning," immigration, celeb reality -- pretty much anything you want, and if you can't think of anything to say, you can just curse a lot and have your toys rip the heads off the other toys.
Robot Chicken isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's definitely worth a look. Sharp and irreverent at its best, crass and obvious at its worst, this set is a must-have for fans and a good rental for newcomers.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 225 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Gag Reel
* Chicken Nuggets
* VFX Comparisons
* Alternate Audio
* Deleted Animatics
* Deleted Scenes
* Studio Tour
* Video Blogs
* Official Site