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REN & STIMPY
The First and Second Seasons

Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: John Kricfalusi, Billy West
Creator: John Kricfalusi
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 418 Minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2004

"Ladies and gents, I give you--THE CHEESE-A-PHONE! Now we can talk to cheese anywhere in the world, regardless of their foreign tongues! Go ahead, Ren, say something in Limburger."

Shows ****

The Ren & Stimpy Show holds a special place in my heart. Please do not think of me as a disturbed person.

I was in middle school at the time Nickelodeon aired what would become their edgiest, and downright crudest, cartoon ever. It was 1991, and the cable channel known as The First Network For Kids was looking for fresh animated material to accompany a weekly time slot. The people at Nick were more than impressed at the fresh animated work of the show's creator, John Kricfalusi.

How Ren & Stimpy got accepted into the Nickelodeon market in the first place is kind of puzzling. My guess is the network wasn't afraid to aim gross out gags at young ones. The level of crude humor in the show wasn't by any means suggestive or extreme. Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the show never got slapped with any sort of controversy from the likes of concerned parents. All of the concern was perhaps savored for MTV's Beavis and Butthead, which premiered not too long after Nick's cartoon, which was harmless by comparison.

Nonetheless, The Ren & Stimpy Show has earned its labeling of the most demented animated show ever created with flying colors. It's one of those shows where you simply had to accept it on its own terms. The plot lines made no sense, and the gags ranged from the gross out to the purely bizarre. In other words, you need to have a seriously warped sense of humor in order to enjoy it. Thankfully, I happen to have just that.

The best way to describe Ren & Stimpy is a warped take on The Odd Couple, though in the end I'm not sure which one would resemble Felix or Oscar. Ren Hoek is an overly tense chihuahua with a short fuse, while Stimpy is a fat cat with an IQ of around…well….negative 150. They happen to live with each other, even though Ren can't stand Stimpy's rampant stupidity. But, if Ren did something about that…well, then there'd be no show now would there?

To give you a better idea of each character's persona; Ren's dialect closely resembles Peter Lorre, while Stimpy seems to have channeled the voice of Larry Fine of The Three Stooges.

Among the duo's deranged adventures during the first and second seasons, no fan can ever forget the show's spoof of Star Trek. The space adventures of Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy resulted in the most pivotal laughs of the series. One of the early episodes, titled Space Madness, has Ren slowly going insane to the point where he fears Stimpy is turning against him. The conclusion involving the History Eraser Button is priceless.

Other classic episodes in this collection include In the Army, where the two enlist in the military and The Great Outdoors in which our heroes endure a horrific camping trip. Two forever classics are two early episodes, Big House Blues which chronicles Ren and Stimpy's stint in a dog shelter, and Stimpy's Invention, where in which Stimpy tries to cure Ren's anger by applying an invention called The Happy Helmet. This particular episode features the monumental dance number to "Happy Happy, Joy Joy!", a phrase that was incorporated into the show many times.

One episode stands out in the opening season, and that is Sven Hoek, probably because it took the show to the highest level of stupidity possible. It tells of Ren's visiting cousin, Sven from Sweden. Ren's excited about the visit, until he realizes that Sven shares something in common with Stimpy, endless stupidity. This episode included a bit of advice I've followed ever since I've watched it, and that is to never wiz on the electric fence.

To put it succinctly, The Ren & Stimpy Show is deranged animated brilliance, courtesy of the fresh animated vision of creator John K. I have yet to grow out of my admiration for the dimwitted adventures of the hyperactive chihuahua and the dumbest cat on earth (you hear that, Garfield--you're a has been!), and I don't believe I will anytime soon, thanks to the show's timely arrival on DVD.

Video ***

My to my surprise, the animated look which I thought would be a challenge to perfect on this format turned out to be very well handled. Some episodes fare better than others. The latter portion of the season fares mostly better as there are distinct differences between the animated motion of early shows and later ones. Nevertheless, the entire season looks impressive. Colors, no matter how bizarre it's displayed, is quiet strong and helps to provide eye gazing shots. Fans of the series are certain to be well beyond impressed.

Audio ***

Here's something I really wasn't expecting. The 2.0 channel mix provided on this release manages to make more of an effect than would have ever expected it to. The show's opening theme alone sounds better than ever, and it gets the channels rockin' and a rollin'. The distinct music cues that were most frequent in the show sound incredible, too. Word delivery is a plus, as well. A marvelously well handled performance.

Features ****

Paramount has supplied a wonderful package that is certain to delight all fans of the series. First off, I found the packaging alone to be something of a delight. The extras are well handled as they are spread evenly across three discs. There is selected episode commentary from the original animation team, a featurette titled "In the Beginning", a never aired episode titled "Man's Best Friend", a pencil test on the Sven Hoek episode, and a storyboard and image gallery. In addition, several episodes have been upgraded to an Uncut status--making the laughs an even bit more suggestive than before.

Summary:

HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!-Indeed! The Ren & Stimpy Show has made its mark onto the DVD format with a dynamite Collector's Box Set package that is certain to become one of the year's best collection offerings. One thing's for sure, if you are a fan, or were ever a fan--do yourself a favor and seek this DVD set out--YOU EEEDIOT!!!!

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