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Billy and Mandy's Big Boogie Adventure

STUDIO: Cartoon Network
MSRP: $14.98
RUNNING TIME: 80 Minutes
"Bully Boogie" short
Interviews w/ voice actors

The Pitch

“It’s like a Discworld novel mixed with a Grimm folk tale, as conveyed by a kid with no volume modulation on his voice.”

The Humans

(Why aren’t voice actors ever listed on the backs of animation DVDs?) Greg Eagles (Metal Gear Solid), Richard Steven Horvitz (The Angry Beavers), Grey DeLisle (Harvey Birdman).

The Nutshell

When Death gets tossed from his job for gross negligence, he, along with his “best friends forever and ever” Billy and Mandy have to travel through the circles of hell to win back the scythe of office and stick it to the Boogeyman, whose machinations caused this whole mess in the first place. Plus, robots from the future, a terrifying hand, and something that’s not at all like David Bowie.

Y'know, anticipating criticism doesn't invalidate it.

The Lowdown

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy operate in a weird half-place between the irreverence and distaste for coherence of the Adult Swim lineup, and the relatable, young-audience fare like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Creatures and The Fairly-Odd Parents. Each episode of Billy and Mandy, while providing a generally coherent story related to some aspect of childhood life or fantasy, ends on a horrifying downer, a “gotcha” that ends with the protagonists exiled from their plane of existence, or exploded, or trapped in the form of a tree. The dark turns, prancing through the realm of the sardonic and the cynical, seem to aim at an audience a bit older than its timeslot would have you think. It’s not arch about the darkness, either; it’s plain as night.

This TV movie can be seen as one of those episodes, but extended, and with more musical numbers. The quality of writing and animation is identical to that of the show, and the production values stick to the numbers, as well. It’s worth noting that the same sick magic that propels each fifteen-minute episode seems to have survived being stretched out to eighty minutes.

This picture is worth at least a full point on the score.

Unsurprisingly, all the qualities that bring the show down are present here, too. The humor won’t stick to a single track, bouncing between the gross-out antics of Billy and the world-weary bon mots of Mandy. The characters aren’t particularly compatible, and I don’t mean that in a Laurel and Hardy kind of way. Billy and Mandy are in opposition for eliciting laughs, instead of working together like a functional team comedy; I’ve often gotten the impression that the strategy is just to cram as many different styles of humor into a single product, in order to ensure that everyone watching will toss off at least a laugh or two. That just gets on my nerves.

The movie as a whole didn’t, and certainly earned a few of my chuckles. It’s helpful to remember that it’s probably nostalgia that makes you think older cartoons are better than the newer ones. Billy and Mandy is full of tiny little moments of solid humor, and the remainder is inoffensive entertainment, unless you find Billy offensive.

"Time to play Edward II, honey..."

The Package

For continuity’s sake, Billy, Mandy, and Grim’s first face-off against the Boogeyman is included on the disc. The episode is called “Bully Boogie,” and centers around the poor Boogeyman being the least scary thing on the planet.

The other bonus is a set of interviews with the voice actors, which is a disorienting experience, because these folks look nothing like their voices sound. Introduce a little cognitive dysphoria into your life!

5.5 out of 10