'SuperMansion': TV Review

Courtesy of Crackle
SuperRaunchy but only SemiFunny.

Crackle's stop-motion animated series about a group of bungling caped crusaders is more sleazy than super.

It’s hard out there for a champ, especially an aging one like Titanium Rex (Bryan Cranston). He’s the silver-haired and foul-mouthed leader of The League of Freedom, a group of mostly inept superheroes living in a government-funded mansion. In the first installment of Crackle’s new 13-episode stop-motion animated series (the brainchild of Robot Chicken’s Zeb Wells and Matthew Senreich), this band of brothers — and a sister — comes off like the Kardashians in capes.

The team assembles after a metal-suited baddie named the Blue Menace steals a diamond from an underground vault that also includes the Declaration of Independence and “Clinton’s ball gag” (Bubba, how could you?!). In addition to Rex, the team includes Black Saturn (Tucker Gilmore), whose ego knows no bounds; Cooch (Heidi Gardner), a literal catwoman with a sassy attitude to match; American Ranger (Keegan-Michael Key), a ’50s-era champion fresh out of cryofreeze who holds offensively antiquated opinions about the modern world; RoboBot (Wells), a mechanoid man grappling with a major identity crisis; and Brad (Tom Root), the muscle of this bumbling sextet who has a taste for steroids and a love of erotic massages.

Their cooperative skills are, to put it mildly, a little rusty. And with so many conflicting personalities, is it any wonder the group’s fight with Blue Menace ends with the Washington Monument destroyed and Congress foaming at the mouth to shut them down? Most of the rest of the first episode deals with Rex and the team’s attempts to fend off the inquiries of “military-grade accountant” Sgt. Agony. “Ah-choo! Sorry, Rex. I’m allergic to bullshit,” he shouts when Rex says he’s happy to see him.

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But running around in a more intriguing B-plot is the Joker-like villain Groaner, a member of the so-called “Injustice Club” that’s sure to figure in future episodes. Groaner’s day job as an “evil prop comic” leads to the episode’s most riotous line, when RoboBot quips, “Maybe he’ll realize he’s a prop comic and kill himself.” Almost every jest tends to be of a similar shock-and-awe variety, as when an indignant congressman scoffs at the League of Freedom’s monetary indulgences: “You’re so far in the red, you’re like a pilgrim at an Indian brothel!” he roars before quickly following up with a sheepish, “No? Too far?”

That pull-your-punches attitude is prevalent throughout SuperMansion. The show takes viewers right up to the cliff’s edge of outrage before gently reneging. It’s all bad taste in good fun, and the tonal whiplash that results tends to neutralize the humor. What’s left is the general aggressiveness of the voice acting, with Cranston et al. mostly shouting their profanity- and pop-culture-speckled lines (an Ace of Base reference!) in monotonous mock exasperation. You hear the series more than you see it, which is a shame given the often amusing claymation work. Groaner’s red-wigged skull face (like, an actual skull) is admittedly giggle inducing, as is every scene in which RoboBot — who becomes “JewBot” by episode’s midpoint (don’t ask) — moves further away from his automated origins and embraces his inner Israelite. There are certainly few pleasures in life greater than a Right Said Fred-scored bar mitzvah.

Twitter: @keithuhlich