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Review: 'Regular Show: The Movie'

I’ve been a sap for not picking up on the brilliance of this show until now.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a little late to this particular picnic. I’ve been so busy catching up on Pony, watching Epic Rap Battles of History and Capaldi Doctor Who’s, I never got around to developing a Regular Show habit.

I heard a lot of good buzz about the show and I should’ve watched a few episodes, but the bizarre cast of characters (anthro animals, a bubble gum machine guy, a yeti, a ghost, a lollypop-headed old guy with a squealy voice…) made me think it was just another Cartoon Network show with a lot of random, WTF elements and strange-looking characters mixed together for no particular reason and to no particular effect. (And yes, I’m talking to you Uncle Grandpa.)

Well, any show that’s been around for seven seasons and has an Emmy under its belt deserves a look sooner or later; I decided to start with Regular Show: The Movie. It could’ve been a mistake to jump in that far along; the characters have had six years to evolve and reveal their personalities in depth, and I might not have a clue who they were, personality-wise.

I read the show’s Wikipedia article, then started watching the movie… what a sap I was, not picking up on this earlier! For starters, the characters are personality-driven, and their personalities, the way they mesh and contrast are far more important than their unusual appearances. The relationships have a “lived-in” feeling that yes, these are people who all know each other, the way you’re closer to certain people in your crowd than others you might find annoying, but you’re all comfortable with each other’s company and you’re used to their particular quirks.

I’m probably going to bore those folks who have been wise to The Regular Show since its premiere, but even to a newbie it’s quickly obvious that slacker pals Rigby the raccoon and Mordecai the blue jay, have known each other forever, that Rigby is impulsive and forgetful, and Mordecai slightly more thoughtful, but equally lazy. According to Wikipedia, the surreal British comedy The Mighty Boosh was a big influence on Regular creator J.G. Quintel and indeed there’s a lot of that show’s Vince and Howard in the two critters’ relationship.

The Movie revels in its creator’s 1980s childhood, with easily recognizable Star Warsy sci-fi styling and vector video game-ish opening titles. It boasts a brilliantly constructed time-jumping screenplay, with a pre-credit sequence set in The Future, followed by the plot set-up in The Present and a visit to The Past to right past wrongs and negate a doom-laden future. In the process we—and the characters—get to meet their past, present and future selves. (Past Mordecai and Rigby attended “West Anderson” high school, a much subtler—and funnier—hat-tip to a favorite director than Animaniacs’ “Scorsese Park.”)

The movie’s MacGuffin is a reality-devastating “timenado” (thank you Sharknado, we’re now in for an endless number of “nado’-suffixed phenomena) that will turn pals Mordecai and Rigby into bitter enemies in the future, but its real story is their friendship, and how a bad choice can change peoples’ lives forever. (The movie reaches for, and achieves some real poignancy here.) Which is not to say the film is lacking in solid, funny writing, as when Present Rigby and Mordecai are debating whether to talk to their past selves:

Rigby: Do you think talking to ourselves is gonna screw up time or anything—what if we explode, or implode or something?

Mordecai: Future you came and talked to you and nothing happened

Rigby: Well, he died.

Mordecai (reassuringly): Yeah, but that was only because I shot you [in the future].

Rigby (Relieved): Oh yeah.

The time-travelling villain is the school’s volleyball coach/science teacher who has it in for Rigby for ruining his team’s shot at the championship; as soon as he gets his revenge, “I’m going to destroy the Earth and then just live on my sweet spaceship and watch tons of TV. I recorded the past 25 years’ worth, so I’ve got a little catching up to do.” You see, all his time-jumping about has made him a little “craze-o,” which is how they say “crazy” in the future. (Later on, on the cusp of victory he tells an underling “let’s wrap this up—I’ve got nine seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond to watch,” who responds “Yes sir, I hope you enjoy Season 4, sir!”)

Fans of the show likely have their own favorite characters; mine is probably Skips, a gravelly-voiced, super-intelligent Yeti who sounds like Harvey Fierstein but is voiced by everyone’s favorite Jedi, Mark Hamill. (When one of the characters is in the middle of a lengthy recap of recent events he interjects “We’re all caught up, Monolog Johnson.”)

Regular Show: The Movie is available for digital download as of September 1st, it arrives on DVD on October 13, and will, chock-full of commercials, air on Cartoon Network later in the fall. Me, I think I’ll go watch six seasons of Regular Show—I’ve got a little catching up to do.

Joe Strike's picture

Joe Strike has written about animation for numerous publications. He is the author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America's Most Misunderstood Subculture.

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