A genuinely inspired amalgamation of fantasy tropes liberally frosted with absurd humor, the animated series Adventure Time
is a charmingly cracked confection that deserves its devoted cult following. Set in a faraway kingdom called Ooo, the series follows the caffeinated adventures of Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada) and his bespectacled talking dog Jake (John DiMaggio, Futurama
) as they thwart the misunderstood but mostly evil Ice King (Tom Kenny, SpongeBob SquarePants
) from his regular attempts to kidnap Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch, Teen Titans
). Aiding them in their escapades are the bass-playing Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson, Phineas and Ferb
), petulant extraterrestrial Lumpy Space Princess (voiced by series creator Pendleton Ward), and Beemo (Niki Yang), a sentient but playable video game console. The 26 mini-episodes that comprise the show's first season pit the heroes against a dizzying array of oddities, including candy zombies in "Slumber Party Panic," a pie-throwing robot (Andy Milonakis), and "Ricardio the Heart Guy," a living heart suavely voiced by George Takei. But more often than not, the characters' own personal issues make for the most inspired moments, most notably in "When Wedding Bells Thaw," where Finn and Jake try to encourage the Ice King to give up his princess-kidnapping pursuits by throwing him a bachelor party.
That blend of grownup, self-aware humor and childlike silliness can be difficult to balance, but Adventure Time frequently succeeds, thanks in part to the epic sprawl of its universe, which provides a sizable canvas that preserves the tone of the series while maintaining a never-ending supply of weird and wonderful encounters. It is unquestionably an acquired taste, but it's also a sweetly offbeat series and an awful lot of fun. The two-disc set includes a healthy selection of extras, most notably commentary tracks on four episodes, including "Tree Trunks," which features some amusing anecdotes from Ward's mother and family friend Polly Lou Livingston, who also provide voices in the episode. The three featurettes are a mixed bag: A Behind-the-Scenes Featurette is a surreal barrage of sight gags filmed in the Adventure Time production offices by Ward with his phone, while the Behind the Scenes of the Behind the Scenes gets even sillier. A 10-minute talk with the show's music editors takes an equally left-of-center approach, though the nearly hour-long collection of animatics and a two-minute episode called "The Wand" are fairly straightforward. The only true letdown is the lack of a Blu-ray presentation, which would accurately preserve the show's HD broadcast quality. --Paul Gaita