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With: (voices) Regina King, John Witherspoon, Cedric Yarbrough, Gary Anthony Williams, Jill Talley, Gabby Soleil, Samuel L. Jackson
Written by: Aaron McGruder, Rodney Barnes, Yamara Taylor, etc.
Directed by: Anthony Bell, Joe Horne, Seung Eun Kim, Lesean Thomas, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 232
Date: 03/18/2013

The Boondocks: The Complete First Season (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Huey X

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How can you not love an animated series that starts with the lead character stepping up to a mike at a garden party and saying: "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil and the government is lying about 9/11"?

The fifteen half-hour episodes comprising the first season of "The Boondocks" have recently been released as part of a new 3-disc set by Sony Home Entertainment.

Creator Aaron McGruder has written and drawn the superb "Boondocks" comic strip for years and, apparently, this series was envisioned at the same time. But he was clever enough to concoct different rhythms and jokes for the small screen than for the strip. Here, we have color, movement, voice inflection, quick cutting (as opposed to the one-two-three-four of a comic strip), and room for fantasy sequences.

In both mediums, McGruder still has the betterment of African-Americans in mind. An educated ten year-old, Huey Freeman (voiced by Regina King), has grown cynical about the black man's place in the world. His younger brother Riley (also voiced by King) is more of a troublemaker, fancying himself more along the lines of a traditional gangsta rapper. And their grandfather (voiced by John Witherspoon) in the relative safety of white suburbia. Outcasts in their neighborhood, but also outcasts within the black community, these characters have the opportunity to comment upon, and sometimes take action to improve, their situation. One character, Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams), is a black man who constantly argues that African Americans had it better when they were slaves.

Like "The Simpsons," these characters sometimes find themselves on the front lines of history, such as the resurrection of Martin Luther King, or the trial of R. Kelly. In other memorable episodes, grandpa opens a soul food restaurant, Huey directs a Christmas play about Black Jesus, and a lemonade stand inspires "Do the Right Thing"-style violence. Huey and Riley also meet a pair of white Iraq war veterans who talk "gangsta" (one of which is played, hilariously, by Samuel L. Jackson).

Each episode is beautifully crafted, with an eye on lush, shadowy visuals and a pulsing, jazz-like rhythm. While some of the jokes have been patently recycled from days gone by (certain old gags from Eddie Murphy's stand-up days find their way into the scripts), the show is almost consistently funny, consistently brilliant, and, best of all, compulsively watchable.

DVD Details: Sony's three-disc DVD set comes "uncut and uncensored." Certain episodes come with crew commentary, and some episodes have a comic "Uncle Ruckus" commentary. Other extras include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, animatics, unaired promos and printable storyboards (accessible via both PC and Mac).

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