'Queer Duck' was originally a series of Internet shorts developed by Icebox, shown online on Showtime's Sho.com starting in 2001. The programs, as well as this full-length feature, were written and produced by Mike Reiss of 'The Simpsons' fame. Queer Duck's character was notable for being voiced by actor Jim J. Bullock, and it featured a theme song sung by cross-dressing diva RuPaul. These shorts were popular for creating a gay-centric cartoon world where the humor contained many insider gay cultural references, quickly developing a popular following among techie queers.
'Queer Duck: The Movie' is the expansion of the production into a full feature-length comedy. The movie keeps the crudely drawn "pre-school" animation style of the 'Queer Duck' shorts, as well as bringing back Queer Duck's zany cast of friends and lovers, like Openly Gator, Bi-Polar Bear, and Oscar Wildcat. Joining them are celebrity voiceovers from Conan O'Brien, Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Bruce Vilanch, Andy Dick, and David Duchovny, as well as parody impersonations of such gay-friendly icons as Barbra Streisand, Rosie O'Donnell, Liza Minnelli, and Elizabeth Taylor, not to mention a rather unflattering Michael Jackson.
The main plot of 'Queer Duck: The Movie' revolves around Queer Duck's struggle with whether to try a supposed "cure" for homosexuality, as well as his decision to marry Lola Buzzard, an older female celebrity with more than a passing resemblance to a real-world gay-friendly diva.
The big question is whether a three-minute Internet short can possibly be expanded successfully into a 72-minute feature while retaining the same feel and personality of the original programs. The answer is mostly yes. All the delightful insider jokes and gay cultural references are still here. The jokes are fast and zany, like in the original shorts. The one-liners come one after another with no break, and therein exists one issue. There are so many jokes that the viewer is left still laughing and digesting one wisecrack or funny line when another is lobed at them with no break. The viewer barely has time to appreciate one joke before being forced to forget it and move on to the next joke. This works fine for a three minute short, but in a long feature, it leaves the viewer practically panting, trying to keep up with all the humor elements being thrown at them. The plot, on the other hand, could have used a little more depth and development. The feel is like that of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, going for the quick one-liner joke versus any deeper story development. Some of the jokes could perhaps have been saved for a sequel, and instead some more time spent between one-liners to add to the story development.
For a gay audience, it is important to point out the humor and characterizations are also a bit dated in an "old gay man" way. Even the writer admitted in one of the included featurettes that the movie has the humor of a 45 year old gay man and feels more like the gay '80s than the gay world today. He freely admits that a twentysomething gay male may not connect to the jokes the same way. We agree that there are too many "old-school" gay references that just seem a bit out of place in the contemporary world. You feel drawn back in time to a stereotype of the gay world where Streisand, anonymous sex parties, musical numbers, bitchy flamboyant behavior, and old-school drugs like roofies and Coke were all the rage. These things are really meaningless to the gay identity of most twenty and thirtysomething gay men today, but most will still at least understand the humor enough to appreciate it, although they likely won't feel the same insider emotional connection as an older gay man to 'Queer Duck''s humor.
We did also notice one inconsistency within the movie with the previous 'Queer Duck' universe established in the shorts. In the movie, Queer Duck has a flashback to when he came out to his parents during his childhood Bar Mitzvah, yet in one of the shorts, Queer Duck comes out to his parents alongside his boyfriend as an adult during dinner. A minor point for sure, but interesting nevertheless that the established timeline background of Queer Duck was not followed fully for the movie.
This feature is presented in widescreen, enhanced for 16:9 TVs. Since the animation style is somewhat rudimentary, without a lot of visual detail, there is not a whole lot that is challenging about the video quality that would take advantage of the DVD format. Still, the main feature is crisp and clear, with nice bright, vibrant colors. There are no noticeable artifacts or pixelation issues. The same cannot be said of the 5 original 'Queer Duck' shorts that are included in the Extras. Here, the limitations of material originally intended for viewing on a small computer screen become apparent on a larger TV. There is a slight jagged pixelation issue that can be seen from time to time on the edges of the characters, although the problem is actually less than one might think it would be for programming originally made for the Internet. Also, while the bonus featurettes are all presented in widescreen as well, the 5 'Queer Duck' shorts are in their original full-frame aspect ratio.
The main feature is presented in your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital Stereo. The 5.1 audio track sounds nice and full, and in the background music, the "thumpin'" club beats have appropriate bass oomph. Voices are clear and easy to understand. Otherwise, the feature does not make significant use of the channel separation possible with 5.1, nor is it necessary for the "flat" two-dimensional world of 'Queer Duck'. The extras are all presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. On the bonus featurettes, which are mostly talking, this sounds perfectly fine. On the 'Queer Duck' shorts though, there is a noticeable lack of range and fullness when compared to the sound field of the main feature, but this should be expected given that the material was originally made for the fidelity requirements of web content. The main feature is also available with optional English subtitles.
This DVD's special features include 5 featurettes, plus 5 original 'Queer Duck' shorts, and a Previews section. The featurettes each focus on and reveal different aspects of the creation of 'Queer Duck'. 'Getting Behind Queer Duck' is about convincing Icebox to get behind the development of the original shorts. 'The People Behind The Voices' showcases many of the talented voiceover artists involved, including both Jim J. Bullock as Queer Duck, and Conan O'Brien on his cameo appearance. This featurette is fascinating as it shows the various voices being performed by the talents as they record them for the movie. The next featurette is called 'Getting The Right Homosexual' and is mostly about finding the right persons to voice over each role and creating the right cultural "language" for the show. The producer/writer, Mike Reiss, also addresses the "issue" that he is straight yet feels he was able to create a believable patois for the gay characters. Up next is 'How To Find A Partner If You're Bi. Um Coastal' which is about the creation process that involved a producer/writer and a director on opposite coasts. Finally, there is 'Character Assassination' which explains the legality of parodying celebrities in the movie, which apparently is only allowable when the character is portrayed completely over the top and exaggerated. The five original 'Queer Duck' shorts included are each only a few minutes long and showcase what made these internet programs from 2001-2002 so appealing and worth expanding into a full-length feature. They are great both for fans of the show as well as for viewers of the DVD who may have never seen the original shorts but are curious about the genesis of the 'Queer Duck' world. The previews are nothing more than a repeat of the promos for the Logo network that were mandatory viewing when you first insert the DVD, so that "extra" has little value here.
This movie has to be respected for creating a cartoon that adult gay men will appreciate as being a representation of their world (with the caveat previously noted about the gay cultural generational gap that is prevalent). To some degree, this is even more respectable given that the writer/creator is straight, yet somehow "gets it" about what gay men find funny. Lesbians may not enjoy this film quite the same way, as the characters are definitely male dominated and the humor is largely targeted to gay male culture. This movie has so many jokes thrown in so quickly that it actually can be appreciated more with repeat viewings where the viewer has time to focus on different jokes each time. Much of the humor has adult or sexual themes though, so definitely keep this cartoon away from the kids. Despite its few flaws, this movie is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates a light-hearted, fast-paced adult comedy with tons of clever gay pop cultural references. There is enough universal humor here that this is the perfect fun disc for gay men to throw on when their gay-friendly friends come over. We guarantee you will all be on the floor laughing hysterically throughout the show.