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Review: Netflix’s Disenchantment

Netflix
Creator: Matt Groening
Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Eric André, Nat Faxon, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille
It”s been a few years since we’ve been blessed with anything new by Matt Groening. If you’re not familiar with the name, you are definitely familiar with his work. He’s the creative genius behind one of televisions longest running television programs, “The Simpsons” and another not so long running but relatively successful cartoon show, “Futurama”.
“Disenchantment” is the first time Groening has thrown his hat into the hot new platform that is direct streaming with Netflix. I think that might the issue the viewers are having with “Disenchantment.” Being able to watch all of the episodes back to back doesn’t give the audience enough time to absorb the personalities of the characters. There are some dramatic shifts in character and some inconsistencies in their traits that are very noticeable.
I recall with both “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” the “fans” took awhile to come around. “The Simpsons”, at the time it debuted as it’s own show, not as a skit on “The Tracy Ullman Show”, it was met with a lot of backlash. The show was criticized for being against the grain of what television audiences were used to seeing in a “Modern American Family” and…it was a “cartoon.” Since the debut of “The Simpsons”, the American viewing public has accepted cartoons as a medium for situation comedy. “Futurama”, never caught the fire that “The Simpsons” did, but it is considered a cult classic and still regarded as one of the best sit-coms to date. Unlike “The Simpsons”, “Futurama” appealed to the more “Geeky” viewer being a sci-fi show.
“Disenchantment” is falling in line with its predecessors in both style and comedy. Taking place in a medieval land called Dreamland. One of the main characters is an un-happy tree-elf named Elfo. Elfo seems to have the most change and shift in his character throughout the season. Sometimes he’s happy go-lucky, sometimes he’s a horny loved crazed teen, a few times, he’s flat out evil. Elfo belongs to a race of Elves whose sole purpose is to sing and make candy and be paid in candy! The elves look a lot like the “Happy Tree Elves” that Lisa and Maggie Simpson were big fans of. Elfo is not happy with having to be sweet and happy all the time. Elfo craves some salt, pain, and adventure in his life and he sets out to do it. His opening traveling scene from his home in the Happy Elfland to Dreamland reminds me a lot of the walk that Will Ferrell’s character did in “Elf.” He’s clueless to the danger all around him, even when he is caught in the middle of a Gnome vs Troll battle.
Princess Tiabeanie or “Bean” for short is a Princess who doesn’t want to be forced to marry or give up her spoiled party girl ways. On the night of her wedding, in episode 1, she is cursed by a demon Luci, voiced by Eric André, whose sole purpose is to make Bean do bad things. This was a little problematic and not really hashed out. Bean was already a handful and rambunctious. Her personal guard asks to be sent on a Crusade rather then watch the spoiled princess before the demon ever makes an appearance. She didn’t really need the demons help. I don’t know if this was some sort of set-up for later seasons, but it left me wondering about his actual purpose in the trio.
The rest of the cast of “Disenchantment” is quirky but shallow. Her Dad, King Zog, is a load boorish king, think Robert Baratheon. He was re-married to some sort of lizard lady, Queen Oona, who isn’t too bright to simple aspects of life. She passed that trait down to the son, Derek, who she had with the King. Her step brother is oafish and comes into play for site gags and quick chuckles. Speaking of, you will want to watch “Disenchantment” and pay attention to the action on the screen. There are a lot of sight gags and action that’s never alluded to in dialogue. The peasants that the heroes run across during their adventures run the range from insane and nonsensical to normal and caring.
The storyline for “Disenchantment” isn’t too shabby. Reminds me a bit of a mix between “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones”. It’s not like the previous Groening comedies where every episode is its own stand alone. This is a narrative and follows a plot line through most of its season. The King wants Elfo’s magical blood in order to create an immortality elixir but then banishes him when he banishes Bean for partying too hard and being a spoiled brat. “Disenchantment” does end on a cliff hangar that I hope Netflix allows Groening to complete. I look forward to this being one of his great works on par with “Futurama”, I hope he outdoes them both.