Gee, Judge Bill Gibron sure loves urban animation!
Unda ground hip hop cartoonz, via encripted hip hop TV
Mike and Fonz are two hopeless homeboys livin' da life in Oakland, C-A! Hosts of their own underground hip hop comedy/interview/criticism show—imagine Wayne and Garth in love with rap, not heavy metal, and you get the idea—our dopey duo Q&A with famous celebrities, offer up homemade, outsider animation, and occasionally get involved in new jack swing hijinks. Throughout it all, Mike and Fonz drop names, ridicule current rappers, pick on each other's personal taste, and try to outdo and outwit each other during broadcasts. The results are something both surreal and stupid, straight from the streets and blasting into the solar system of strangeness. Where else would you expect to see Li'l Kim butt ass naked, Bill Clinton try out his new post-Presidential stand-up comedy routines, or a surprise appearance by none other than the Godfather of Soul himself, the always unintelligible James Brown. It's all in a typical programming day for the chillin'-est and illin'-est station in the nation, Channel X.
Combining sensational spoofs, the occasional parody, and enough insular, inside humor to make even the most well-versed pop culture critic seem clueless, Channel X is a thoroughly engaging bit of anarchic animation. Presented by Image as a full-fledged movie running approximately 46 minutes, this collection of savvy short films gives us a ghetto fabulous look at the world of ethnic animation at its most cutting edge. Streaking through the current crop of hip-hop happenings without once apologizing for its scandalous, gossipy satire, this intensely clever comedy comes courtesy of the amazing minds of Alfonso Amey, Richard Sciortino, Lathan Hodge, and Walter Leaphart. While it's hard to pin down any specific information on the show or its crafty creators (both Google and the IMDb are strangely silent), it doesn't take away from the fact that this is unbelievably iconic, very artistically deft stuff. Amey and his gang have a distinct style, melding pop art influences, graphic (and graffiti) design, and a talent for caricature and color combination that really sets Channel X apart. Other cartoons attempting similar streetwise showcases always tend to stumble back into hackneyed formula or failed folly. Not Channel X. It sticks to the crazy, cocksure parameters of its playas and never lets up on the anarchy accelerator.
As with most comedy cavalcades, Channel X is an uneven amalgamation of lampoon, put-on, mimicry, insightful slander, twisted tomfoolery, and ballsy blue humor, all wrapped up in a solid social satire. Thankfully, it is more hit than miss. The best bits come directly out of recognizable rap archetypes and bizarre "straight from the headline" send-ups. The middle third of the film is taken up by an extended interview with George W. Bush on a hilarious Hispanic talk show entitled Off the Record. Promising our President that anything he says will stay between just the two of them, our mumble-mouthed moderator gets the animated leader of the Free World to let loose with a series of slurs, attacks, and heretofore unheard truths about his mistakes in Iraq and the whole war of terror tactic. It's incredibly funny, and frightening at the same time. Also dead-on is a take-off (found in the bonus clips) on Snoop Dogg and his notorious appetite for pot. Sending Mike and Fonz on the prowl for some chronic, this toke joke just gets funnier as the hindered homeboys misconstrue just what type of "tea" the big bow-wow wants.
Sure, some of the targets are obvious and old hat. The James Brown interview consists of the same old song shout outs that Eddie Murphy made famous back during his SNL/stand-up days, and the promised pandering of a naked Li'l Kim just doesn't pay off well. While visually stunning, "The Repenter" superhero cartoon is rather disjointed, and the "Street Court" skit is initially amusing but ends up going nowhere fast. When Channel X is bangin' on all eight cylinders, it truly is some amazing animated fun. A joke ad like "Bitch-B-Gone" or the bonus episode material featuring a visit to a local studio (complete with an asshole Eminem screaming about how important he is) really nails the irreverent tone and take-no-prisoners attitude of this presentation perfectly.
But you can often sense Amey and friends pulling back, withholding the knockout blows out of respect, or flat out fear, of retaliation by the focus of their farce. Too bad they don't let it all hang out and take the potent potshots—feelings and face-offs be damned. Combining amazing music, some sensational visual designs, a real feel for the urban experience, and a unique approach to both comedy and composition, Channel X is an awe-inspiring example of how you can add ethnic color and creativity into the same old sketch based bonanza, and come up smokin'.
Image offers up the 60 minutes of content here (46 of movie plus another four bonus clips) in a wonderful 1.33:1 full screen presentation full of color and character. The amazingly dense palette preferred by Amey and Company comes across brilliantly on this DVD presentation. The flashes of freaked out pigment, the subtle shading in the character elements and the overall appearance of thick black line graphic design absolutely radiates in this crisp, contrasted visual experience. The sonic elements are also superb. Using Dolby Digital Stereo to add amazing weight to the bass-driven boom of the music. The hip-hop literally storms from the speakers, making this a true aural assault. Voices are clear and understandable and the effects are perfectly balanced throughout. Along with the added shorts, this is a nice, nominal digital package containing some extraordinary sound and vision variables.
Here's hoping that the DVD release of Channel X exposes more people in the mainstream to this distinctive, delightful bit of artistic triumph. Though Amey and his company are mostly underground entities, working below the radar to change the perception of how minorities can play their own part in the entertainment industry, Mike and Fonz feel right at home amongst the animation hierarchy. With a look so distinct that they instantly become symbols and a level of lunacy that matches the best sarcasm present in our current crop of comedies, they are another classic combination, like Beavis and Butt-head. Sometimes, the entire urban scene and experience tends to take itself too seriously. Thankfully, Channel X is here to take it down a deliciously devilish peg.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Four Additional Mike and Fonz Adventures
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