Judge Paul Pritchard cooked up this review with a pinch of enthusiasm and a sprinkling of love.
Our review of Chowder: Volume 2, published April 6th, 2009, is also available.
"Radda Radda Radda!"
Having worked on the concept for several years before the pilot episode aired, series creator C.H. Greenblatt worked as a storyboard artist on Spongebob Squarepants before Chowder finally got the greenlight.
The Spongebob connection proves to be both a blessing and a curse for Greenblatt's labor of love. Clearly the association will bring in curious new viewers, but it will also draw comparisons that don't necessarily do Chowder any favors. That being said, those looking for a change from the almighty Spongebob might just find Chowder: Volume 1 to be right up their alley.
Facts of the Case
Working as an apprentice to restaurant owner Mung Daal, Chowder is a young boy who dreams of being a great chef. However, due to his impulsive nature and voracious appetite (which sees him repeatedly eating customers' orders), Chowder's dreams remain some way off.
Living in Marzipan City, Chowder is in constant interaction with a host of eccentric characters, from Schnitzel, the assistant chef to Mung Daal whose vocabulary consists entirely of the phrase, "Radda," to Ms. Endive, the cooking teacher who proves to be a thorn in Mung Daal's side. Each episode sees Chowder and Mung Daal battle to complete another culinary delight.
Chowder: Volume 1 comes to DVD with "Ten Tasty Stories," split over five episodes, for your enjoyment.
• "The Thrice Cream Man & The Flibber, Flabber,
Something odd happened, following my first screening of Chowder: Volume 1. Having pretty much made my mind up on the DVD with a somewhat unfavorable review being mulled over, I had the urge to give the disc another viewing. Now, while multiple viewings of a disc are often necessary to ensure a fair assessment has been made, this was different. Something kept nagging at me, suggesting that maybe I'd missed something on that initial viewing.
Thank goodness I gave Chowder a second chance. While I'd be wrong to hail the show as a classic or even particularly great, Chowder is bags of fun and has a zany charm that quickly becomes infectious.
While each episode throws Chowder and co. into a succession of wacky adventures, it's the characters who hold the viewers interest. Chowder himself is instantly likeable, his sunny demeanor and overexuberance being an appealing combination. Chowder's pet, Kimchi, almost single-handedly personifies all that is great about the show. A floating fart cloud, Kimchi is a character surely set for cult status, should the show really take-off. Throw in Panini, the rabbit-like girl vying for Chowder's affections, and Ms. Endive, who steals every scene she is in, and Chowder begins to look like a show just waiting to explode into the mainstream.
As the character of Kimchi shows, the series writers' are happy to throw in some toilet humor, without wallowing in the gutter. Chowder skillfully blends kid-friendly jokes with gags that will appeal to viewers of all ages. Still primarily aimed at youngsters, it's hard to imagine parents who purchase this DVD for their children not chuckling along with Chowder's misadventures.
Chowder employs a knowingly quirky, yet undeniably attractive visual style, albeit not a traditional beauty. There's a scrappiness to the character design that sits perfectly with the shows knockabout humor. Not a million miles away from Spongebob Squarepants or Fairy Odd Parents, Chowder nevertheless retains a visual style that is instantly identifiable, with a nice line in puppetry used to backup the traditional 2D animation.
The discs 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is strong, with colors suitably vibrant. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is a similar story. Though quite simple with nothing to push your setup, it does the job without any problems. Apart from a storyboard comparison for one episode, the disc is bereft of extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's still early days for Chowder and occasionally it shows. The humor especially is a little hit and miss in places, while the stories occasionally border on the uninspired, despite the oddball cast of characters. But fear not, for these issues all feel more like teething problems than any real cause for concern. Later episodes have a more assured feel, as the characters start to bed in.
Forget the inevitable comparisons to Spongebob, Chowder is a show still finding its feet and can't yet compare to the squarepant wearing colossus. Taken on its own terms, Chowder: Volume 1 is a lot of fun and shows plenty of promise for future volumes.
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