Warner Bros. // 2008 // 286 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // April 9th, 2009
"Oh! Oh, man! Orpheus, they TP'ed your corporeal form. That is
-- The Alchemist
Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick not only have two of the coolest names on TV, they've created one of the coolest shows. Since it debuted as part of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup back in 2004, The Venture Bros. has amassed legions of fans and metaphorical piles of critical acclaim. To describe the show to someone who hasn't seen it is to probably get it completely wrong. When pressed, I usually start with "Well, it's kind of like a Jonny Quest parody..." But that's wrong. Hammer and Publick's series is impressive because it's not a parody -- of Jonny Quest, or Scooby-Doo, or anything else. It also doesn't rely on smug pop cultural references to get laughs. It earns every belly buster with smart, character-based writing. Even when the show isn't hilarious, it's compelling -- full of action, adventure, and mystery.
That mix of great storytelling and character-driven humor is all over The Venture Bros. Season Three, which balances the series' ongoing narrative with huge helpings of back story, and ends with an explosive two-parter that rivals the best Hollywood has to offer in both action and comedy. Whether you watched these 13 episodes when they aired, or are catching them for the first time on DVD, this set is the perfect way to bide your time until the first half of Season Four debuts in the fall of 2009.
The Venture Bros. Season Three has 13 episodes, plus deleted scenes and commentaries, across two discs:
* "Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny"
This premiere picks up where Season Two's finale left off. Monarch -- along with his new bride, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (nee Dr. Girlfriend) -- are taken by the Guild of Calamitous Intent and questioned about Phantom Limb's attack on their wedding.
* "The Doctor is Sin"
Now without an arch-enemy, and in danger of financial ruin, Rusty Venture is taken under the wing of Dr. Killinger, who offers to fix both the compound and its inhabitants.
* "The Invisible Hand of Fate"
A blow to the head causes Billy Quizboy to remember things about his past he'd forgotten, including the way he lost his hand and his relationship with OSI and Phantom Limb.
* "Home Is Where the Hate Is"
After moving into a gated community for supervillains, The Monarch is furious when he finds out Sgt. Hatred is now arching Dr. Venture.
* "The Buddy System"
Dr. Venture turns the compound into a day camp for boy adventurers.
* "Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman"
While searching for a hidden treasure in the jungle, Dr. Venture is reunited with a childhood flame, her two twin daughters, and burly female bodyguard.
* "What Goes Down, Must Come Up"
An accident with the earth driller sends Brock and Dr. Venture on subterranean adventures below the compound.
* "Tears of a Sea Cow"
Fed up with looking for a new arch enemy, The Monarch decides to ignore Guild orders and break into the Venture Compound, only to find out Hank and Dean are the only ones there.
* "Now Museum, Now You Don't"
Jonas Venture Jr. turns Spider Skull Island into a museum dedicated to the memory of his father, and holds an opening gala for hero and villain alike.
* "The Lepidoperists"
Annoyed by The Monarch choosing him as his new arch enemy, Jonas Jr. calls on a mysterious pair of OSI "butterfly collectors" to help.
Billy decodes a secret message hidden in old episodes of the Rusty Venture cartoon, which uncover a series of clues leading to the whereabouts of a dangerous artifact.
* "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part I)" and
Hunted by the OSI and three deadly assassins, Brock tries to keep himself (and the tagalong Ventures) alive.
The animated TV landscape is as full as it has ever been, and a good portion of those shows are aimed at a grown-up market. There are certainly edgier shows in the Adult Swim lineup than The Venture Bros., but none are as smart. In its uncensored DVD form, the show pushes plenty of boundaries, with swearing and animated penises aplenty, but the quality of Hammer and Publick's scripts make it the good kind of adult programming.
Season Three goes to some new places for the show, spending a lot of time with a post-Venture Monarch and a slew of character back stories. There are origin tales for Phantom Limb, the Monarch, and Billy, as well as scenes of Brock from his OSI days (complete with a blood-soaked montage that shows what G.I.Joe would look like if it were real), and appearances by the Murderous Moppets, Pete White, the Order of the Triad, Dr. Dugong, Molotov Cocktease, Richard and Sally Impossible, and Ned. Some of the best stuff comes in the form of flashbacks to Team Venture fighting bad guys and swapping wives in the '60s.
This season was the first to be shown in widescreen HD, and the format is shown off beautifully even on standard-def DVD. This kind of flat animation transitions well to digital, with rich colors and sharp detail. The Venture Bros. has always been a stylish show, and with a full 16:9 window to work with, Astro-Base Go! has created a season that's as gorgeous as it is funny. The 5.1 mix makes scant use of the rear speakers, but is overall dynamic enough that you probably won't notice. Frankly, Season Three looks so good on standard DVD the only reason to get the Blu-Ray instead is the bonus soundtrack CD (sadly missing from this release), or if you prefer the cover with the blue background to the yellow.
I don't usually write much about DVD packaging, but that's because packaging is usually an afterthought. Not here. The case looks like an old Atari game case. Inside, there's a fold-out photo of actors posing as Dr. Venture, Hank, Dean, and Brock gathered around the TV playing the fictional Venture Bros. game. For a taste of what that game might have been, check out the animated DVD menus, complete with a pixilated Brock jumping over alligators Pitfall!-style, and The Monarch shooting Venture skulls.
The bulk of the bonus material are commentaries on every episode by Hammer and Publick. They occasionally talk about the show, but mostly go on tangents, goof around, and smoke. It's pretty great. Just make sure you've seen the full season before listening to any of the commentaries, because they spoil a major death in the final episode -- and they do it repeatedly. Disc two also has "deleted scenes" for every episode except "Tears Of A Sea Cow" and "The Lepidopterists," which consist of the recorded audio over storyboard stills.
Hammer and Publick may be taking their sweet time to finish the next batch of episodes, but fans should take some solace in how darn great The Venture Bros. Season Three is. Full of clever writing and compelling characters, the show is completely rewatchable, and has never looked better.
Super not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 286 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes