Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure
Starring: Greg Eagles, Richard Horvitz, Grey DeLisle, Vanessa Marshall, Fred Willard, George Segal
The creators of the Cartoon Network series "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" bring us their first direct to video movie based on the characters from the series.
The premise of "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy", the brainchild of cartoonist Maxwell Atoms, is an amusing one. The Grim Reaper (Eagles) loses a limbo contest against brother and sister Billy (Horvitz) and Mandy (DeLisle) who are respectively too stupid and too surly to be intimidated by him. He is subsequently bound to be their obedient friend forever. Unfortunately, I have never found the show to quite live up to its twisted premise, and this direct to video movie is no exception.
"Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure" revolves around a plot by the Boogey Man (Willard) to undermine Grim who he resents for being more feared than he is. He uses Grim's historical and recent difficulties in fulfilling his reaping responsibilities as a pretense to have him transported to the underworld, tried, and stripped of his powers. When Grim, Billy, Mandy, and their friend, Irwin, discover that the Boogey Man's endgame is to gain possession of the "Hand of Fear", making him the scariest being in the universe, they must race across the underworld to get there first, challenge Lord Horror (Segal), face their greatest fear, and gain possession of the Hand. Things are further complicated by a framing time travel story where robots named Billybot and Mandroid are sent from a few weeks in the future by a mysterious figure in possession of the Hand to eliminate and replace the real Billy and Mandy.
The convoluted plot, which feels as disjointedly strung together and episodic as a bad video game, amounts to an excuse to hang a boatload of juvenile gross-out and stupidity humor from its ungainly bones. The humor is mostly of the variety that stupidity and bodily functions are inherently funny regardless of context or character. As such, Billy is dumb and gross, but not in any way endearing or likeable. This would be okay if he had an acceptable foil to be exasperated by him, but Grim prooves to be as poor an Oliver Hardy as Billy is a Stan Laurel.
The stylized, thick-lined, character designs are fairly primitive. They are rigid yet without very dimensional structures. The voice work often comes across as overly-mannered as if they are trying way too hard to be wacky and sell the jokes, although I do like DeLisle's take on Mandy. One other element I liked was the show's use of color, with a darker palette and less standard set of hues than is employed in most modern animation.
The film is presented in both a 16:9 enhanced widescreen and a 4:3 presentation. The 16:9 version usually has extra picture information on the sides compared to its 4:3 counterpart. As a result, the 4:3 version has tighter framing. Much of it looks like it was composed to work at 4:3 (rarely do you see a shot of a single character on the outskirts of the frame), although a few shots in the 4:3 version do appear a bit cramped. The transfer has excellent color and black levels, but suffers from mosquito noise and pervasive light edge ringing around the ubiquitous thick high contrast lines.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very good. It frequently makes use of the surrounds with discrete effects, and there is even occasional extra "oomph" from the LFE channel when appropriate. This is a much more active mix than typical for television and direct to DVD animated programs.
The extras begin with an eleven minute "Behind the Voices" featurette focusing on the voice artists that is pretty much a continuous "everyone is so great" love fest between Eagles, Horvitz, DeLisle, and Atoms. There is some behind the scenes information about how Atoms and the voice artists zeroed in on the voices for the characters, but I was actually struck by how much I disagreed with their decisions and the qualities for which they praise each other, particularly in the case of Horvitz.
Also included is the twelve minute episode "Bully Boogie" that introduced the Boogeyman character to the series and explained the roots of his conflict with Grim. I actually liked it better than the movie since it was less padded.
The disc comes packaged in a standard hard plastic Amaray-style keepcase.
While I personally am not a fan of the show and think it suffers further from being blown up into an 80 minute movie, those who do enjoy it will find a decent presentation in either aspect ratio, marred slightly by compression and edge artifacts. The 5.1 audio track is exceptional, the bonus episode is welcome, and the "Behind the Voices" featurette will give fans a little background informaton as well as a glimpse of the faces behind the characters. If you are not a fan of the show, you may want to check out an episode or two of the TV series (or possibly the funnier and similarly themed "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" movie) first before committing to 80 minutes of this.
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/21/2009 at 06:50 pm GMT