Cartoon Network (2013), Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (December 16, 2014), 1 DVD, 132 minutes, No Supplements, 1.78:1 Ratio, Dolby Stereo 2.0, Rated TV PG, Retail $14.99
Uncle Grandpa–who is everyone’s uncle, and everyone’s grandpa–travels around in his RV helping children solve their problems. His friends include Pizza Steve (a talking slice of pizza…who wears sunglasses), his dinosaur bodyguard Mr. Gus, his friendly sidekick Belly Bag, and Giant Realistic Flying Tiger, who is his favorite giant realistic flying tiger in the world. And we haven’t even gotten to the weird stuff yet!
The Sweatbox Review:
Oh, my. Where does one even begin when trying to talk about Uncle Grandpa?
I’m not sure which is going to be harder: Trying to explain the actual show, or justifying why I ended up really enjoying something which I fully expected to dislike. The most obvious thing to say about it is that it’s certainly weird, continuing the “tradition” of Cartoon Network’s current lineup of programming that includes breakout hits like Adventure Time! and Regular Show. These cartoons, normally running roughly 11 minutes an episode, don’t have any rules to them. Much like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies on the cable channel’s Adult Swim schedule, these are television programs where literally anything can and probably will happen.
Truth be told, there is nothing “wrong” with this. While I have yet to even catch a single episode of Adventure Time!, I have been a big fan of the majority of Adult Swim’s programming, including their almost criminally underrated live-action Eagleheart, which seems to have been replaced by the unexpectedly popular Too Many Cooks. With that being said, on the surface, Uncle Grandpa appeared to be a show that was random just for the sake of being so, without a clear concept behind it to give it some sort of footing. Even after watching the twelve episodes included on Uncle Grandpa: Tiger Trails, I still can’t really tell you what the show’s actually about. Uncle Grandpa is everyone’s uncle and grandpa, which means that everyone knows him, and also means that he knows everyone’s name. He’s also magical, can remove his head, can give himself more than one body, and seems to have the ability to create clones of himself when needed. In fact, Uncle Grandpa seems to have the capacity to do anything the script requires him to do, regardless of whether it actually makes sense or not.
But in the end, that doesn’t matter. In fact, one of the most appealing aspects of Uncle Grandpa is that continuity and plotting really don’t matter. All that matters is that it’s funny, and while some gags and episodes might arguably get a little too strange, for the most part, the show succeeds at getting laughs. There is a cheerful, zany nature to everything that brings to mind the bizarre yet wonderful early seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants and Family Guy, before both of those shows ultimately became aware of their own popularity. To me at least, SpongeBob SquarePants has become a shadow of its former self–many of its recent episodes have come dangerously close to being a chore to watch–, and even Family Guy, though still funny, will never be the charmingly random series that it once was. Uncle Grandpa is giddy, optimistic, and non-threatening in any way. It isn’t concerned with teaching the kids at home a valuable lesson at the end of each episode. It’s just concerned with making sure that those kids have a good time.
I thought of SpongeBob a lot when watching Uncle Grandpa. While SpongeBob, even in its early days, was never quite as “out there” as Uncle Grandpa ultimately is, the two shows are still extremely similar in tone. Actually, at least two of the episodes on this disc–one in which Uncle Grandpa has an irrational fear of the dark, another where he and his friends “discover” a treasure map found on a children’s place mat–could easily be re-written as SpongeBob adventures, especially since Uncle Grandpa’s bouncy nature makes him feel like the titular character on that show, and his voice sounds so much like Patrick Star’s that I swore at first that he had the same voice actor behind him. Even Mr. Gus, although not nearly as “negative” as Squidward, still finds himself in similar sorts of uncomfortable situations as he has to contend with his pals.
That’s not to say that Uncle Grandpa comes across as a SpongeBob rip-off or anything, because it doesn’t. In fact, one reason that Uncle Grandpa works as much as it does is because its characters are all instantly distinctive, yet still weird enough to go with the show’s “anything goes” format. There is intentionally no way to make sense of Uncle Grandpa himself (how exactly can he be “everyone’s uncle and grandpa”?), and his friends aren’t any easier to explain, but they are all given unique character traits that somehow make them bizarrely relatable. Giant Realistic Flying Tiger, for instance, is exactly what she sounds like, but she also has the personality of a teenage girl, complete with boy band posters hanging on the wall of her bedroom. Pizza Steve deludes himself into believing that he’s an incredible athlete when in reality he can barely snap an ice cream stick in half. And Mr. Gus, despite being a dinosaur, is probably the closest thing the show has to a “normal” person, being the only character to ever point out just how weird the events going on around him really are.
And make no mistake, those events are weird. One episode, for instance, begins with Uncle Grandpa and his friends trying to help a dog recover his lost ball from a mean old neighbor’s yard and ends, quite literally, with the world being destroyed. Another one–which is easily the strangest of the twelve episodes included here–has the characters running for their lives after a game of “funny faces” somehow leads to the creation of a gigantic head that looks like Gene Shalit. For some viewers, at least initially, Uncle Grandpa may take some getting used to, and they might even be turned off by the strange shenanigans so much that they quit on the show before really giving it a chance. But once you adjust to how the series works–including the fact that, despite the 11-minute running time, each episode ends with an unrelated comedy sketch–, there really is a lot of fun to be had here. Uncle Grandpa may not be for everyone, but if you let yourself go along for the ride, you’re probably going to end up laughing a lot more than you might think you will.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Uncle Grandpa: Tiger Trails has no extra features. The only trailers included are for Adventure Time!: The Complete Fourth Season and Adventure Time!: Princess Day. Neither preview is accessible from the disc’s main menu.
Uncle Grandpa: Tiger Trails comes in a white plastic case with no slipcover. There is a double sided insert with an advertisement for Adventure Time!, Regular Show and The Cartoon Network Holiday Collection on one side, and an ad for the Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake mobile game on the reverse.
Ink And Paint:
Uncle Grandpa is a brand new show, so it’s no surprise that it looks great on DVD. Colors are bright, energetic and crisp, and even when seen in standard definition it looks really, really good. Nothing to complain about here.
Uncle Grandpa: Tiger Trails has a perfectly serviceable if not spectacular audio track, providing exactly what is expected of it. On my television, at least, the show’s cheerful theme song always played louder than anything else on the series, so you might want to make sure you have your remote control handy to adjust the volume accordingly. This is also a good time for me to quickly say that the entire voice cast of Uncle Grandpa does a great job with their characters, with the always excellent Keven Michael Richardson being the standout as Mr. Gus. Uncle Grandpa has no alternate language tracks.
I feel like I haven’t said quite as much as I could’ve about Uncle Grandpa, but the truth is there’s really not all that much to say about it. This is simply a fun, wacky show that kids will love and many adults will probably find themselves enjoying, too. Whether or not this disc is worth the price is up for debate, as you can get through all twelve episodes over the course of just over two hours, and no special features are included. But for newcomers to the series, if you’ve missed the days when SpongeBob SquarePants contained references to Nosferatu and Family Guy episodes could end with William Shatner being run over by a car, Uncle Grandpa’s random charms just might be for you.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?