Judge Bryan Pope says that fat man in the red suit is lucky Death was there to save him.
'Twas the night before Christmas,
By all rights, I should sue Cartoon Network for false advertising. Cartoon Network Christmas 3 isn't a holiday celebration so much as a sampler of (read: commercial for) the network's more popular children's offerings. In fact, only two of the five episodes are truly Yule-themed, while one other barely makes the cut, and only because of the presence of snow. But 'tis the season for spreading good will, so I'll let that slide.
First up is Camp Lazlo, the network's newest show and an innocuous offering that will likely appeal mostly to the kindergarten set. In "Snow Beans," the Bean Scouts of Camp Kidney grab their skis and take on Mt. Whitehead, but Scoutmaster Lumpus is more interested in cozying up next to Ms. Doe on the ski lift. It's cute, gentle fun with a smidgen of gross-out humor, but only enough to keep the little ones giggling.
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, on the other hand, should be reserved strictly for older children. One part The Fairly Odd Parents to four parts The Addams Family, the show stars a Rasta-speaking Grim Reaper as the chaperone of acerbic Mandy and halfwit Billy, and it overflows with ghoulish gags and gross-out humor. "Billy and Mandy Save Christmas," in which Billy, Mandy, and Grim travel to the North Pole only to find Santa Claus has been turned into a vampire, actually had my five-year-old son beating a hasty retreat for the back of the house. For older kids, though, it's good, subversive fun. Listen for Malcolm McDowell, Gilbert Gottfried, and Carol Kane lending their pipes.
My son returned in time to catch "Operation N.A.U.G.H.T.Y.," but I swear I don't know why. The episode is courtesy of Codename: Kids Next Door, a show that wears my patience thin every morning around 7. The premise—a posse of grade-school children double as secret agents who operate out of a souped-up treehouse—isn't particularly inspired, but what really grates my cheese is the baby talk used for the characters. Condescending and obnoxious, "N.A.U.G.H.T.Y." finds the K.I.D.S. uncovering a plot to sabotage Christmas, so the episode at least gets credit for sticking to the theme.
Ed, Edd and Eddy somehow benefits from its nonexistent premise (three friends share the same name), but the character design has always struck me as crude and off-putting. In "In Like Ed," the boys suspect a neighborhood boy is a spy, so they become spies and track his movements. The result is one messed-up birthday party. Amusing but unmemorable.
The disc's shining star is "Store Wars," a first-season entry from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, a charmingly animated, Emmy Award-winning fantasy about the residents of, yes, a foster home for imaginary friends whose creators have outgrown them. It's a delightful premise that cranks out more gut-busting laughs per episode than any of the other shows on this disc combined. A trip to the mall in search of birthday gifts and party decorations snowballs into a comedy of terrors for four residents of the home and their two human companions, resulting in 22 minutes of character-driven comedy packed with enough visual gags to warrant three or four viewings. Hiding among the laughs are sharp observations on loneliness, insecurity, and the transforming power of friendship, but you and your kids will be too busy laughing to notice.
A Cartoon Network Christmas 3 is clearly meant to whet our appetites for the inevitable season sets (the first season of Ed, Edd and Eddy is already in stores, and Foster's hits shelves this spring), but it's not a bad stocking stuffer.
All five episodes are presented in their original full-frame format in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Subtitles included. The package also contains trailers for other Cartoon Network titles.
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