Adult Swim has a habit of fattening its lineup with joyfully goofy, if often moronic, tidbits like Squidbillies, Assy McGee, and Frisky Dingo, and The Boondocks seems determined to wall off its own voice from all that. Even during its silliest moments, the adaptation of Aaron McGruder's comic strip gives its audience a stern stare.
The show also seems determined to bridge AS' comedy and anime audiences, tempering the strip's often explosive humor with a pacing that leaves a lot of room for emotional shifts. It doesn't force itself to be funny all the time, though its second season begins with a stinging, distinctly McGruder laugh, in a trailer for the fictitious terrorism thriller-cum-blaxploitation comedy Soul Plane 2: The Blackjacking! ("Come see why black incompetence is our funniest weapon in the war on terror!"). The hero? 50 Cent, voiced perfectly (kind of like a little kid mumbling a gangsta-rap fantasy to himself): "I'll stop those terrorists–or die tryin'."
Grandpa and Riley bounce off to the cineplex, dragging along Huey and the exceedingly innocent Jazmine. Huey keeps his mind on the wider struggles (inciting the theater's employees to unionize), while Grandpa continues his lifelong war against paying for tickets and overpriced snacks (oh, and having to butter your own popcorn). Soon, the satire gets almost too brutal to draw laughs--a pre-feature ad in the theater reminds that "Stealing movies is a felony. It's just like robbing the elderly--or murder," setting the message against a gruesome mugging-shooting scene. Again, The Boondocks doesn't insist on comedy--it's a collage of threats, fears, temptations, degradations, and obstacles a family faces (and sometimes brings upon itself).
The series felt a bit disappointing at first--narrow Adult Swim comedy-not-anime viewer that I am, I just expected more laughs--but now I'm actually grateful that the series is willing to do the things a strip can't. The strip needs punch, so the jokes and underlying pettiness tend to come out in neat, almost predictable jabs. The show lets you wallow in Huey's world a little longer, which actually makes it harder to, say, dismiss Grandpa as a jackass. Sure, he goes off on a needless rant about snack-counter service, making a scene in the theater lobby, but at least we see the filthy, disappointing condiments area through his eyes. All that uneasy space between the cruel laughs and the fight sequences? That's where this show thrives. This is the programming block that gave us Sealab 2021 and Tom Goes To The Mayor, so why not push the discomfort even further?
–"This is going to be the worst day of your life. I'm bringing nunchuks."
–Anime-styled crying children are the saddest crying children of all.
–Guest voices: Snoop Dogg and Mo'Nique, who appeared in the original Soul Plane.
–Really, whoever wrote this Soul Plane parody should've been born 15 years earlier and written parody bits for The Critic.
–Somehow, it's always satisfying when Huey's idealism meets not just frustration but true spite. When a ticket-taker tells Huey the theater's employers formed a union (on Huey's advice), and promptly got fired, this exchange follows:
"Well, uh, power to the peop--"