Fanboy & Chum Chum
Paramount // Unrated // $16.99 // May 24, 2011
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 10, 2011
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In 10 Words or Less
I don't know. I just don't get it.

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation
Likes: Some Nickelodeon shows
Dislikes: Super-deformed art styles
Hates: Gross-out comedy

The Show
If you've read any of my kids TV reviews, you'll know my daughter is the gateway to such offerings. And normally, if she likes something, I'll like it too, as we have similar tastes (or as similar as two people 28 years apart in age can be.) But after watching this DVD, I tuned to my little girl and asked her quizzically, "Why do you like this?" She replied simply, "It makes me laugh." So I pressed further. "Why?" "Because they are so silly." I couldn't argue with that, because Fanboy and ChumChum are nothing if not silly. But for the first time in a while, I couldn't find a reason to watch a Nickelodeon show, as the series just left me uninterested.

That's odd, because on the surface, this seems like a show that should appeal to me, as it's seeped in pop culture. There's a constant stream of references, including Star Wars jokes and video-game gags. In fact, one character, the antagonistic Boog, is almost entirely based on John Travolta's film career, taking his voice and bits and pieces of his characters, including a childhood spent in a plastic bubble. It should have worked for me, but then the farting started and never stopped. If there's an episode of this show without a fart gag, I haven't seen it.

That's the biggest issue with the series. Sure, there's a place for gross-out comedy, but it has to be strong enough to draw a laugh without the nasty business if you're going to get any real value from the gag. With two paper-thin leads in the dumb, yet enthusiastic FanBoy and the cherubic and dimwitted ChumChum, there's not much beyond the gas. There's not much motivation beyond a desire for frosty drinks and whatever interesting thing slides into view, be it the new movie based on their favorite game, Chimp Chomp, or an amazing new toy called Mechatech. It's the lack of substance, combined with the simplicity of the laughs that let me down. Compared with Nickelodeon's other successes, this one just doesn't hold up.

If the lack of big laughs weren't enough to keep me from enjoying this series, the animation would have done the trick. Though the CG animation is impressive, the style is not my cup of tea, putting the glossy, plastic look of CGI onto a superdeformed style that's a bit off-putting. While the animators have peppered the series with fun little touches that embrace the cartoon media, like bodies that aren't limited to the realities of human anatomy and a distinct lack of impact on the part of physics, they don't overcome the freak-show character designs. On the other hand, what could make an animation fan sit up and take notice is the excellent supporting cast on hand. If you're looking for a who's-who in voice actors, the cast list here is a good place to start, as you get a few popular mainstream names, like Jamie Kennedy, Josh Duhamel (playing hugely against type) and The Daily Show's Wyatt Senac, as well as animation vets John DiMaggio, Dee Bradley Baker and Jeff Bennett, who handles a huge number of roles and does them very well.

Here are the stories included:

  • Wiz Boy
  • The Janitor Strikes Back
  • Dollar Day
  • Trading Day
  • Chimp Chomp Chumps
  • Fanboy in the Plastic Bubble
  • Fan vs. Wild
  • Freeze Tag

The DVDs
Eight 15-minute stories from the first season of Fanboy & ChumChum are included on DVD, which is packed in a standard keepcase. The order makes no sense, as stories are separated from the episodes they aired with, and the episodes follow neither the air or production schedule. The DVD features a static full-frame menu with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out extras. There are no audio options or subtitles, but closed captioning is included.

The Quality
These CG animated episodes look great, with lots of fine detail and appropriate color, but, once again, though the series airs in widescreen on Nickelodeon, these episodes are presented with full-frame transfers. There are no issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts though.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is surprisingly good on these episodes, with impressive separation between the left and right channels, making for an enjoyable presentation. There are no issues with distortion, as the music, dialogue and especially sound effects come across crisply.

The Extras
Seeing there were animated shorts included, I'd hoped the original pilot was one of them, with the original voices and designs, but instead you get a set of six quick hits, which don't differ much from the show. Then there's the pilot episode of Planet Sheen, which, except for its status as a CG cartoon, shares nothing with Fanboy & ChumChum. Planet Sheen, a spin-off from the popular Jimmy Neutron, is more winking and self-aware, which makes it more entertaining, even if the lead character is stunningly annoying.

The Bottom Line
While younger viewers might get a bunch of laughs out of the goofy animation and potty humor, older viewers will find themselves getting thrown a bone once in a rare while, unless they enjoy base comedy. The DVD offers up good quality (outside of the lack of original aspect ration transfers) and a few bonus elements, but like most Nickelodeon DVDs, you're only getting a few episodes, so your mileage will vary.

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