TROUBLE CITY

DVD REVIEW: MORAL OREL VOLUME ONE - THE UNHOLY VERSION

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STUDIO: Turner Home Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 173 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
o 15 episodes on two discs
o The Awkward Comic-Con Panel
o Promos/bumps
o Behind the scenes
o Original open
o Odds and ends
o Episode commentaries

The Pitch

Davey and Goliath meets blatant and welcome disregard for organized religion”.

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The Humans

Created by Dino Stamatopoulos, with the voices of Jay Johnston, Scott Adsit and Carolyn Lawrence, amongst others.

The Nutshell

Moral Orel is a pretty simple show (and honestly, for all of the purported “weirdness” of the Adult Swim lineup, they all adhere to formula pretty strongly, at least from my experience). It’s pure formula stolen from the old Davey and Goliath television show where Davey is taught a moral by the end of every episode. Except here, the moral is subverted in clever (and entertainingly grotesque) ways while still allowing for the episode to always wrap up in similar fashion (a trip to Dad’s study where he will make clear (in Moral’s case – completely obfuscate) the moral of today’s story) allowing for a subversion of the norm while sticking quite closely to it.

The Lowdown

When you have the pedigree of a show like Moral Orel, you deserve attention. Show creator Dino Stamatopoulos coupled with Jay Johnston (always in my opinion, the most underrated member of the Mr. Show troupe) and 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit seems like a recipe for comedy gold. While it doesn’t reach the heights of their previous work (although, really, what on Earth does?), Moral Orel is a pretty solid addition to the Adult Swim lineup that manages to be smart as well as entertaining, which usually isn’t the norm for some of its regular programming (I’m looking at you, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and whatever other Squidbillies or some such shit is on there). I’m a big fan of stop-motion animation, so this show had already courted by approval simply by working in that medium, but by going after a classic of children’s animation and violently subverting it, I have to give it even more kudos.

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While not really hilarious, the show does manage to entertain throughout its running time and would probably be better described as ‘smart’ rather than ‘funny’. Which is perfectly acceptable, honestly (especially when one considers that stuff passed off as ‘funny’ on television usually is mind-raping, soul-crushing ass pastries from Satan’s bakery) and shouldn’t be taken as a dismissal of the show offhand. It’s a smart show that pokes holes in the logic of organized religion and manages to include zombies, S&M and crack addiction into the mix at the same time.

Personally, I enjoyed the episodes that were more low-key and less absurdist than the others (episodes about racism are more entertaining to me than episodes about hordes of flesh-eating deadites), but thought overall that the majority of the episodes were quite entertaining. Best of all for me was the heart-breaking Christmas special which is just a fuck you to the usual schmaltz one would expect in an episode of its ilk. Its ending was probably the most subversive and darkest thing I’ve seen on Adult Swim and I absolutely loved it. More of the same would’ve probably boosted this season up a bit more in my estimation, but they seemed to gain confidence in their ability to tell stories and tweak the formula as the series progressed, so I look forward to seeing what the creators can do with the character and all of the contradictions inherent in their target in the second season. Recommended for fans of stop-motion, and people who like to see easy targets ravaged in an intelligent and entertaining manner.

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The Package

There are a lot of extras on this set, but it comes with a caveat: when the people giving you the extras seem completely uninterested in them, that sort of apathy extends to the viewer of the extras. There are some commentaries on select episodes here, but they generally don’t offer much in the way of entertainment. The behind the scenes featurette is a little better given the peeks at how they manage the stop-motion animation/sets and how exactly the opening was captured, but there’s still a malaise that falls over the material from the creators disinterest that is so evident throughout. There are some Adult Swim promos and bumpers that are included here that are fine for what they are, and some deleted scenes as well. There are the end credit animations without the credits running over them which are pretty entertaining little meta-jokes on the style of animation they employ while at the same time being rather amusing in and of themselves.

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The only other extra of interest to me was the inclusion of the Adult Swim San Diego Comi-Con panel where the creators of Robot Chicken, Moral Orel, Metalocalypse and The Venture Brothers all sat down to pimp their wares for the convention audience. And it’s notable because Dino and Jay Johnston are extremely drunk by the time they reach the panel and it leads to some genuinely uncomfortable moments of Dino grandstanding (managing to actually be a funny drunk when he notes that his penis is shriveling by the second due to the lack of questions pointed towards the Orel crew) and some actual hostility being perpetrated on his part towards the Venture Brothers crew (asking them how they could possibly be funny when they dye their hair). There’s a palpable nervous energy to this panel and it’s fascinating to watch a show creator be a complete and total asshole on his own special features. Accompanying this feature is a commentary from the Moral Orel crew as well as that from the Venture Brothers, allowing each team to give their spin on the situation (for posterity’s sake: Dino thought it was all in good fun and no hard feelings and while the Venture Brothers crew seems pretty forgiving of the situation, you can tell they were a little freaked out on the day as they were shanghaied by a group of drunk and slightly jealous co-workers). If you can get past the general boredom the creators seem to display in a handful of the extras there’s a lot to dig into here. Recommended for those who like to see facets of religion ripped a new asshole (which in Jesus’ case, you could probably drink wine from).

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7.5 out of 10