Combustible Celluloid

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Uncut - The First and Second Seasons (1991-93)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Ren & Stimpy Show: Uncut - The First and Second Seasons on DVD.

I have never had cable TV since first moving away to college, going on over 15 years now. Whenever some classic nugget turns up on a cable channel, I'm at the mercy of friends or a DVD release to see it. The few episodes of "The Ren and Stimpy" show that I managed to catch (thanks to my friend Paul) back in the early 90s have lived fondly in my memories. Needless to say, I was very excited about this new DVD release, collecting 32 cartoons on three discs.

Unfortunately, a little "Ren and Stimpy" goes a long way. The three or so that I caught back in its prime were just enough -- any more and I probably would have lost interest. DVD fans are encouraged not to watch all of these episodes in a big heap. Better to stretch them out over a few weeks. Or months.

I'm a great lover of sick humor, but the episode Ren's Toothache crossed my threshold. Sure, it's funny, but it turned my stomach (and I was munching on a snack while watching). In it, Ren's teeth rot and fall out, leaving nothing but dangling nerve endings and an odor that makes the flies over Stimpy's cat box retch. Stimpy convinces Ren that the "Nerve Ending Fairy" will give him $100 for them, and then he can buy new teeth. Ren proceeds to pluck the nerve endings out with a pair of tweezers. When the "Nerve Ending Fairy" comes, he's out of cash, so he leaves a ball of lint.

For the uninitiated, Ren is a Chihuahua dog and Stimpy is a cat. They live together, in a heterosexual "Three Stooges" kind of way, and have little adventures. (Ren speaks with a kind of Mexican accent, saying things like "Steempy, you eediot!" while Stimpy sounds a lot like Larry Fine from the aforementioned Three Stooges.) In a way, it's patterned after dozens of old-time cartoons, but adds in the extra bonus of wretchedly sick jokes and behavior. Stimpy is obsessed with his own kitty litter and constantly coughs up goopy hair balls. Ren has a fiery temper and often smacks his companion around. Creator John K. loves drawing damaged, bloodshot, dangling, wounded and otherwise crooked eyeballs.

Yet, "Ren and Stimpy" is constantly inventive and often very funny. The best bits are satirical, as in the bogus television commercials for the children's toy "Log" and for "Powdered Toast Man." The animation is a bit crude toward the show's beginning, but it soon improved by utilizing a nifty little device: whenever the action cuts away to a stable object, the artist presents it in a gorgeously rendered single drawing with lots of detail and light play. ("SpongeBob Squarepants" now copies this technique.)

Undoubtedly "Ren and Stimpy's" greatest contribution to humankind, however, is the "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" song that Stimpy sings, much to Ren's annoyance. Why this song didn't win a Grammy is beyond me. The episode in which this song appears, "Stimpy's Invention," is one of the funniest things ever made.

Paramount's box set comes with the aforementioned 32 episodes, four of them uncut and unedited, as well as a "banned" episode, Man's Best Friend. Extras include audio commentary on six episodes from the original Spumco team, a featurette, storyboards and an image gallery, a pencil test from the Sven Höek episode and other stuff.

October 25, 2004

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