Judge Adam Arseneau is a genius, but the other Judge Adam Arseneau is insane.
Are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Volume 2 of the hilarious spin-off Pinky and the Brain delivers the same family-friendly laughs and spoofs as its previous installment in a DVD set virtually indistinguishable from Volume 1 to the naked eye. We await the results of DNA testing.
Facts of the Case
In Acme Labs, two gene-spliced laboratory mice are surprisingly active, lying in wait for the humans to leave for the night. Once alone, the large-craniumed one with the Orson Welles-esque baritone plots grand plans of world domination, while the sillier one seems content to watch television, act ridiculous, and cause mayhem.
Who are they? They're Pinky (Rob Paulsen, a.k.a. Yakko from Animaniacs) and The Brain (voice actor extraordinaire Maurice LaMarche, Futurama, The Simpsons, Harvey Birdman, et al). Every night, Brain comes up with fiendishly complex plans to enslave humanity and become supreme ruler, while Pinky looks on dimwittedly. Unfortunately, Brain's plans usually unravel faster than a yarn ball in a room full of kittens, and before the night is through, the mice are back in their cages in the lab, resting up for tomorrow night…when they try to take over the world!
Since nobody in their right minds would be dabbling with Volume 2 unless they had fully descended upon, devoured, and digested Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1, we shall dispense with much of the introduction this time through. True to form, Volume 2 is cosmetically and contextually identical to its previous incarnation, Volume 1, save for 22 new episodes. Rather than sell the set divided by production season, Warner Bros. opted for the less-common mathematical division, simply taking an equal amount of episodes for each volume and releasing them sequentially. As long as the series ends with all episodes released to DVD, this method is fine by me.
The downside of this (at least from a reviewer's perspective) is that this set is identical in every way, shape, and fashion to the previous set, save for episodic content. Even then, episodes of Pinky and the Brain have a tendency to blur together into a singular glob of hijinks and hilarity indistinguishable from one another. Old Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons do the same thing—everyone can remember their favorite sequences, but you'd be hard-pressed to correctly identify which episode featured the rocket roller skates by title.
With the DVDs divided up sequentially rather than by production season, it is difficult to get a sense of the show's evolutionary growth, if it even had one. Season Two does everything its previous season did, just more of it. The gags and humor remain fundamentally identical in every possible element. Each episode is similarly crammed full of the requisite site gags, verbal puns, celebrity parodies, and pop culture references far beyond the comprehension of a child. Brain comes up with his plan-o-the-week for world domination, only to have it systematically dismantled through a sequence of bad luck, hubris, irony, incompetence, or Pinky—usually a combination of all of the above. It is a charming show that found a very devoted and loyal fan base during its original incarnation as part of Animaniacs which stayed with the show throughout its run.
Even today, people have naught but praise for the show's approachable humor and near-universal appeal for all ages. It is a show extremely proud of its cleverness, but never afraid to make fun of itself incessantly. The style of humor and animation have gone somewhat out of fashion these days, but no doubt young parents are itching to introduce their children to such shows that dominated the airwaves during the glorious animation boom of the 1990s, myself included. Spielberg and company crafted a Looney Tunes production of the highest caliber; a satirical blend of smarmy wit, topical irony, cultural mockery, and good old-fashioned Acme violence.
Really, there isn't anything we can add this time around to further your appreciation for this show. These episodes are just as funny and enjoyable as the last 22, and if you enjoyed Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1, you are virtually guaranteed to enjoy Volume 2. For fans, this makes Pinky and the Brain homogenously hilarious; but it makes verbosity difficult for a DVD review.
The transfer exhibits reasonable colors and black levels with occasional celluloid damage on par with cartoons from the era, but suffering some fairly nasty digital compression artifacts. In terms of audio, the fully orchestrated score sounds great through both the 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, both clear and well-defined (if thin through the low-end). The astute (or Portuguese) will notice the absence of the optional Portuguese language track this time around. This is no big loss. It sounded like crap anyways.
The only extra comes in the form of a small featurette humorously entitled "Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld) Answer a Casting Call to Do the Voices of Pinky and the Brain for a Future Movie—and Get a Surprise Coaching Session from Original Pinky and the Brain Voices Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche." The feature is exactly what it sounds like—Mark and Wayne try out for the roles, and get brow-beaten by notes from the original voice actors. It sounds much funnier than it is. After five minutes, the feature grows extremely, painfully tedious, and awkward for all involved.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I find myself approaching Volume 2 of Pinky and the Brain with slightly (but noticeably) less enthusiasm than my initial review of Season 1. Though I am indeed pleased to see the show make it to DVD, nostalgia is a fleeting thing. After revisiting the show a decade after the fact, the novelty of the mouse-and-mouse act does begin to wear off somewhat. Fairly dated by today's standards in animation styling, humor, and pop-culture references, I fear that the show's appeal grows smaller with every passing day.
What more can we say? Truly, there isn't much more to add regarding this DVD that wasn't said in our review of Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1. Volume 2 is a true extension in every sense of the word with the next 22 episodes in the series available for your consumption. For fans of the series, you know you've already bought it.
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