TROUBLE CITY

DVD REVIEW: VENTURE BROTHERS, THE - SEASON TWO

Home VideoTom FuchsComment

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STUDIO:  Turner Home Entertainment
MSRP:  $29.98
RATED:  NR
RUNNING TIME:  295 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
o 13 episodes on two discs: Powerless in the Face of Death, Hate Floats, Love-Bheits, Escape to the House of Mummies part 2, 20 to Midnight, Victor. Echo. November., Assassinanny 911, Fallen Arches, Guess Who's Coming to State Dinner?, I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills, Viva los Muertos!, Showdown at Cremation Creek part 1, Showdown at Cremation Creek part 2
o Episode commentaries by cast and creators
o Deleted scenes
o Tour of Astro-Base Go

THE PITCH

It’s the triumphant return of The Venture Brothers to the Adult Swim lineup, clamining their place at the top of the animated television program mountain!

THE HUMANS

Featuring the vocal cords of James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas and Christopher McCullough, and many more.

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THE NUTSHELL

When we last left The Venture Brothers in season one (a few years ago, criminally) the brothers Venture had perished, the Monrach was in jail, and the state of the show was in general disarray.  It’s up to creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer to change or return us to the status quo in hilarious fashion, which I can assure you they most certainly do.

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THE LOWDOWN

Having seen the first season of Venture Brothers, I thought it was an amusing show that had some kinetic energy going for it as well.  With that viewpoint, I was completely unprepared for how head-over-heels in love I’d fall with the show in its second season.  Deftly balancing character development and obscure (and blatant, as well) pop culture references, while existing as an action/adventure show while lampooning the genre at the same time is no easy thing to do (I’m looking at you, other animation shows), and this show makes it seem routine.  Because of that, I’d go so far as to say this is the best animated show on television today.  And what’s more than that, I feel like it’s a perfect product of pop culture (take this and Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz and shove them down your fucking piehole, McLuhan) that manages to work as what’s being parodied without the parody losing its value.

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I know the comparison to Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead is putting this show in rarefied air, and trust me when I say I wouldn’t make such a comparison lightly (as those films are like little miracles in their own right, in my opinion).  They’re both operating on a similar level though; in an age where most TV shows and movies just throw out a cavalcade of references without rhyme or reason, these are products that make sure that they first operate on the level of the genre or specific movie/show being referenced.  This might seem like a minute detail, but it makes all the difference in the world; Venture Brothers is an honest to goodness exciting adventure show.  The reason all of the parodies suck these days is because they seemingly come from people who took nothing from the works that they’re culling from, leaving a spiritless end product.   Something like Venture Brothers (and to a greater extent, the works of Wright/Pegg/Frost) come from a place of appreciation and genuine understanding of their reference points, and they’re all the better for it. 

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And the most important thing that’s done on this show of all is that the characters are the basis for the show instead of the jokes taking center stage (and although they do make on-the-nose references and do it often, they’re almost always springing forth from the character instead of the character being a soulless cipher that exists for the joke, a BIG difference).  All of these characters are damaged in one way or another and all seem to be playing parts that they don’t feel they entirely fit into.  Brock is a killing machine who begins to feel remorse for the carnage he perpetrates, Doctor Venture is constantly trying to live up to the immense image of his father before him, and Monarch seems to only want to be the Venture’s arch-enemy simply to prove he’s a worthy villain and has relationship problems with Doctor Girlfriend that often tend to overshadow his nefarious plans.  The show manages to make these extremely comic characters human and oftentimes examines what a superhero/villain dichotomy would spell out to in a society much like ours (villains applying to be a superteam’s archenemy, villains being shunned for not joining a union, the Venture team feeling left out because they aren’t worthy of a real archenemy, etc.), and the show is all the better for these human touches.

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That’s not to say that the show is perfect.  Some of the episodes fall flatter than others, although they all have their moments, and some of the more on-the-nose pop culture references (Scooby Doo, for instance) seem perfunctory in their usage (although I must admit to chortling at the decades later look at them).  Normally, I wouldn’t hold a slight fluctuation in quality against a show, but with episodes like Powerless in the Face of Death and Victor.  Echo.  November.under their belt they’ve raised the bar to the point where I expect them to consistently deliver the goods simply because I’ve seen them do it before.  That said, this is the best animated show on television (I don’t even know if any other show comes close anymore) and is definitely worth checking out if you’re a child raised on those Saturday morning cartoons or if you just like to laugh at funny things.  If you simply liked the first season, this one might really knock you off your feet like it did for me.

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THE PACKAGE

As tends to always be the case with Adult Swim packaging, this cover is the tits.  As are the inside illustrations which go even further towards the canonization of these characters as badasses.  They’ve done a good job with the look of the show, which really harkens back to the animation style of those old adventure children’s cartoons that are the base of reference here.  The audio backs it up, but it’s not as explosive as it could be (but who’s going to go DTS or 5.1 on a Cartoon Network niche program, really).  In terms of extras, you get commentary on every episode.  They tend to just sit back and shoot the shit with one another and it oftentimes has little to nothing to do with the shows themselves (for example, one episode’s commentary featured tangents on showering in your parents house and signing fees at conventions) and is probably all the more entertaining for it.  Also on board are some deleted scenes, the majority of which are anamatics, and mostly are just little line trims here and there and not really ‘scenes’, per se.  The most entertaining extra is the tour of Astro Base Go, which is parts Star Tours and 70’s filmstrip.  It’s just another showcase for the perceptive and oftentimes hilarious writing that goes on behind the scenes of the show, and also shows that they know how to build a cult fanbase by mythologizing their own production methods as well as themselves, which is honestly some pretty intelligent marketing on their own parts.  All in all, a really fantastic set for a really fantastic show.

9.0 out of 10