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Rick & Morty Season 1-3
There's this little show called Rick and Morty, from the Adult Swim network, and if you don't know it, or worse, don't like it, I pity you, dog. No really. Wubba Lubba Dub Dub or something! Rick and Morty is the brainchild of two dinguses named Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, and it's pretty much the epitome of animated comedy for arrested adolescent males raised on The Simpsons, with a splash of Devil Doll and Radiskull thrown in for good measure. As such, it has a lot to tell us about the state of America, circa 2016, if you know what I'm saying. (If you do, let me know, because I don't think I do.) It's also fiercely smart, packed-to-the-gills with High Concept, and (depending on how drunk or stoned you are) incredibly funny. It's even funny if you're not f-ed up, but being in such a state certainly doesn't hurt. This set collects previously released, unedited seasons 1 through 3, 31 episodes across 6 discs, with the kinds of voluminous extras fans of the aforementioned yellow family come to expect, namely tons of animatics and commentary tracks for every episode.
The Smiths of Rick and Morty are a semi-typical TV nuclear family. Jerry is the buffoonish patriarch, Beth his long-suffering wife. Their eldest daughter is named Summer, and their youngest son is Morty. Beth's freakishly intelligent drunkard of a father, Rick Sanchez, has come to live with them. He's got a penchant for inter-dimensional experimentation, for which he enlists the aid of Morty. Thus the stage is set for science fiction hi-jinx and entertainment meta-commentary. A standard episode crams in as many outlandish concepts as the entire run of the original Star Trek series.
The show, in its knowing disdain of humankind and espousal of 'self' before all else, has attracted groups of maladjusted fans (see McDonald's Szechuan Sauce) to such a point that as I type this review, I've discovered that yesterday an Adult Swim executive went on the record to suggest that people should ignore 'toxic' Rick and Morty fans.
But that's the Internet for you, and although Rick is a character known for really not giving a damn about anyone else, while 'saying what he really thinks' at all times (read: being an ass), he, like the rest of the family, ultimately possesses a shred or two of humanity, just enough to save the show from being an instruction manual for sociopaths of all stripes.
At any rate, the show, in 22-minute chunks, follows the standard sit-com formula: Plot A and Plot B, and how do they both get wrapped up. Plot A involves Rick forcing Morty into (im)mortal danger across multiple dimensions wherein they frequently encounter other iterations of themselves or others in the Smith family. Plot B tends to center on Beth (voiced by Sarah Chalke) and Jerry (voiced by Chris Parnell) demonstrating how marriage sucks because men are children. (On this point, Roiland and Harmon are pretty much spot on. "I AM a baby! I'm a baby NOW!" screams an imperilled Jerry.)
So yeah, Rick brutally, mercilessly insults everyone in his family, Aliens (and later humans) are routinely shot, bisected, blown-up, or pulverized by huge piano hammers, metaphysical conundrums are spit upon, and, while vocal improv is often heavily relied-upon, plots manage to fit together like clockwork. There is lots of Heavy Meta going on too. Rick coins his own catch phrase, and frequently begs for or touts upcoming seasons, and oblique references to other TV shows and movies pop up often. Roiland, Harmon and their staff sometimes coast, with two or three episodes given over to "Inter-dimensional Cable TV", a way to scroll through B-list ideas like a show set on a planet occupied by hamsters that stick out of people's butts, and a motif that also indulges the worst of the creators' penchant for ad-libbing lines in a halting manner.
Seasons One and Two contain lots of brilliant stuff (Scary Terry, Get Schwifty) and lots of adolescent "finding their way" moments (Rick attempting suicide to the soundtrack of the song 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails) before the wall gets shoved aside for Season Three, in which more intricate plots and greater characterization take the fore. Still and all, Rick and Morty is a somewhat tough bit of laughing gas to snort (or at least binge-watch). Rick is such a loathsome character, (albeit a charming one) with such a desolate message to deliver, that he should be taken in small doses. Summer (Spencer Grammer) and Morty (Roiland) are about they only things who pass as human, (Morty in particular, as the POV of the audience) while Jerry is just pathetic. And yet, and yet ...
So take off your pants and your panties, shit on the floor, Rick and Morty is the apotheosis of arrested adolescent geek-boy humor and if you're a geek-boy, and possibly have a large bong, you'll find the show riotously funny and surprisingly intelligent (just don't expect your love of the show to get you any dates). This DVD collection brings together the exact content of the three previous stand-alone season sets, so it's worth it only if you A) don't have cable, B) have only a DVD player, and C) are late to the party. If you meet all the above criteria, you'll find this set Highly Recommended.
These episodes look fine for DVD in their 1.78:1 presentation, which is not to say that they couldn't be effortlessly smooth and shiny. Jagged, pixelated edges appear here and there, especially in Season Three, but colors are rich, and other compression artifacts don't seem to be present.
Dolby Digital Surround Sound 5.1 audio in English does a fine job of presenting content, with dialog mostly front and center, and 'special effects' audio aggressively dimensional as needed. Music elements feature a wide dynamic range and can be aggressively mixed as well. In other words, it's a fairly maximalist presentation across all 6 discs and 31 episodes, but one that can engender no complaints.
Season One includes Commentary Tracks for every episode, three of which have an additional Guest Commentary Track. 6 minutes of Deleted Scenes and 20 irritating minutes of Behind the Scenes accompany Animatics for every episode.
Season Two continues the party with Commentary Tracks for every episode, and three additional Guest Commentary Tracks, as well as Animatics for every episode. Lastly, 45 minutes of Season Two Premier Party Footage represents a step up from iPhone footage, but a step down in terms of audio fidelity, and is focused entirely on a set from the band Chaos Chaos, while projections of drawings of Rick and Morty characters and various dicks goes by on the screen behind the band.
Lastly, Season Three does the same thing what with the Commentary Tracks, and Animatics while throwing in 6 minutes of Recording Booth Footage (Parnell and Grammer mostly), and ten minutes of Origins (split into two parts) outlining how Roiland and Harmon got their start. Inside the Episodes offers about 2 minutes of insight per episode, into each episode from the season, while the extras bonanza concludes with an 18 x 24-inch Poster to proudly display.
Rick and Morty represents the apotheosis of smart-aleck, sci-fi, arrested adolescent, geek-boy humor, and it's damn funny at that. Each unedited 22-minute episode (31 here, the complete previously released Seasons One through Three spread out over 6 discs) contains enough high-concept ideas for several garden variety Star Trek movies, and an equal number of laughs. If you can get past the fact that title character Rick (the most intelligent man in the Universe, and essentially a god) is completely self-centered and loathsome, while his family is comprised of sad losers, you may find yourself addicted to the show. Bingeing is not recommended, but if you only have a DVD player and are late to the Rick and Morty party, you just might find this collection of previously released seasons Highly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke