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Netflix’s The Cuphead Show! review: A weak tea in a dazzling game

Inspired by the rubber hoses and spooky substance of early Disney and Fleischer Studios animations, video games Cuphead drew attention with its outstanding art style and deadly shooting gameplay. Over there not many people like it – carefully hand-drawn with pencil and paper and animated on frames (24 full draw frames per second, instead of the more common 12), filtered through a stylish side-scrolling game design 80s on unsolvable difficulty. The boss fight proved especially memorable, evoking surrealistic monsters but with a classic feel to bring the player down. And now, perhaps somewhat inevitably, it has an animated show. New Netflix series led by Team time creator Dave Wasson.

As in the game, the story of The Cuphead Show! takes place on “Inkwell Isles” (the opening song rhymes “it lies just offshore,” about 29 miles away). Cuphead (Tru Valentino) and Mugman (Frank T. Todaro) are a pair of early brothers living under the tutelage of elderly Kettle, and it didn’t take long for them to become indebted to The Devil (Luke Millington Drake), who was meant to be. is to collect what he owes: Cuphead’s soul.

After introducing this mostly one-sided feud, the series remains an almost unconnected series of details, centered around problems created by the brothers themselves and any new quirks ( usually one of the game’s bosses) they encounter. Each episode takes about 20 seconds to establish that something is set to go destructively wrong.

Hypothetically, it would be either chaotic fun: two goblets heading for an evil carnival – a “Carn-EVIL ?!”, as Mugman realized in horror – or an evil game equally hosted by the ingenious Dice King (Wayne Brady, have fun with it). Here’s something easier, healthier with Cuphead, no punishing bullet mechanics, zero tolerance and boss fights and more about two idiots with a New Jersey accent (I could wrong here but please forgive me, I’m British) hang out and try not to anger their elderly guardian. It makes sense for an adaptation: given the video game’s hidden difficulty, it’s a way to approach its appeal without difficulty.

Cuphead looks up at Dice King who is posing in front of the crowd

Image: Netflix

But instead, the show is punishing in a different way: It’s simply not funny. The The Cuphead Show! makes more sense as an animated show aimed at kids because its jokes don’t require a lot of thought. There are some cool visual tricks like Kettle with a Kettle-shaped skeleton or musical moments with King Dice’s “Minnie the Moocher”-style intro or a really standout set-up where the Devil tried and failed to draw the fence in sequence riffing on Fantasia. But these moments are isolated, and the rest of its hyperactive episodes feel a bit forgettable.

There’s some pleasure to be found on the surface level, even if you’re only familiar with the era of cartoons that the original show and game pay homage to. Those upbeat jazz numbers and that specific spring in every character’s step, the elasticity as their rubber-limbed Mickey Mouse bodies contract and deform in their wild movements pretty much. interesting for a while. Inkwell Isles is realized with some lovely art directions, its chaos unfolds amid charming old settings that blend autumn woods and monstrous spins on speakeasies and architecture. Art decoration.

Perhaps the main factor that the series expands on the game is in its influence on playing more contemporary animation as well as its 1930s aesthetic, right down to the sound design and some pseudo-film grain. It evokes the like Spongebob Squarepants, both in terms of its cast arrangement (Cuphead and Mugman could be replaced with SpongeBob and Patrick; the Devil is, functionally, Plankton, with constant haunts and failures under the table. hands of fools) as well as its flirtation with surrealism and even its use of sound. Composer Ego Plum also worked on that series, traces of it can be felt in The Cuphead Show!big band with fast tempo and amount of jazz. But the more attention is drawn to these connections, the The Cuphead Show! It seems, a feeling quickly begins to associate with each new episode.

Devil in Cuphead in front of the population checking his fingernails

Image: Netflix

Cuphead and Mugman surrounded by skeletons

Image: Netflix

Among the protagonists’ numerous branding schemes, The Cuphead Show! sometimes riff on Looney Tunes– prank style – specific body-shaped holes in the walls; sometimes the brothers’ gaping screams reveal their tonsils, which they themselves are screaming at. In moments like these, the animators have done a great job of bringing the game’s visual appeal to television, but the writing allows little room for anything bright. make up more than a handful of those simple visual jokes. While it’s fun, it’s not enough to sustain an entire series, especially one that seems to portray itself as humorous. Most of The Cuphead ShowThe larger pieces of the set come down to a quick song and dance from the game’s bosses, which range from cute to honestly pretty forgettable.

The result is an animation that feels more like a simple translation between vehicles, a reread than something purposefully moving into new territory. Understandably, this impression is less of an impression on adults playing Cuphead than it does with younger children – aside from appealing to younger audiences, there’s no particularly strong case for it to see itself as a TV show more than it is. Video games already exist.

The Cuphead Show! unlikely to make a difference due to the inherent fact that the game’s interactivity demands your attention, its various non-sequels skimming through with little to cling to the details That funny little picture. The series seems content to be just some kind of show where something qualifies as a joke if it’s said loudly enough. It feels a bit unfair to lament a children’s show’s lack of humor complexity, but at the same time, it feels frustratingly hard to imagine.

Cuphead, Elder Kettle and Mugman laughing in their living room

Image: Netflix

Targeting a younger audience doesn’t mean oversimplification. Shows like Cartoon Network are hugely influential Adventure Time both reveling in self-transformation, and using silence to soften its more emotionally distressing moments. The wonderful world of Gumball seamlessly blends different animated mediums together through its telling of jokes. Children can process jokes with a little thought in them. Spongebob Childish goofiness is perfectly balanced with universal humour, with jokes that start out funny and only get funnier with age. The ghostly, sometimes dark humor of Over The Garden Wall – which manages its own interesting homage to Fleischer through Cloud City Reception Committee – very miss here. For a show that feels indebted to an era of macabre and subversive animation, this first season of The Cuphead Show! is surprisingly safe. Denying the novelty of its appearance, the obvious similarities with other shows began to quickly become burdensome.

There’s nothing wrong with what The Cuphead Show! is working with its time, though by the end of the series the constant machine of rebranded plans becomes increasingly predictable as to how they will play out. It’s a shame to see so little reward in a series that clearly loves this era of classic animation.

It’s hard not to want it to get more complicated with its visual jokes, or without that, delving a little deeper into the world of the Inkwell Isles, but The Cuphead Show! ends in a strange middle-earth, caught between the low-effort comedy and its homage to 90-year-old animation. There’s little else to be found beneath that thin plank, other than a warm mix of various homages. A weak re-read of the original game’s aesthetic The Cuphead Show! add a little bit of difference and become a little bit more like everything else, seems to be more suitable for distracting kids while their parents (probably) get back to playing Cuphead.

https://www.polygon.com/reviews/22933233/cuphead-show-review-netflix Netflix’s The Cuphead Show! review: A weak tea in a dazzling game

Aila Slisco

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