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"Hanky Panky Hullabaloo," Or, The Stupid Cupid Strikes Again

First, a disclaimer: I am on the far edge of Ed, Edd n Eddy‘s target demographic—the far edge? I’m over the horizon and retreating fast—and I don’t regularly watch the series. So I’m not the best choice of reviewer for its Valentine’s Day special, “Hanky Panky Hullabaloo,” which premieres this Friday on Cartoon Network. Still, I was a stinky little boy once, so I guess I can say something about the show.

ImageThe best thing about Ed, Edd n Eddy—both the series itself and this special—is the way it remembers, with fondness but without sentimentality, what it is like to be about nine years old. (Is that the Eds’ age? Close enough, I’d guess.) The characters are crude, impulsive, hyperactive little monsters who will joyfully trash themselves and everything around them. They totally lack self-control; they’re cruel; but they’re also (mostly) free of real malice. (They’re also, thankfully, free of the satirical baggage that South Park carries, which makes these characters feel a lot more real.) You never see any adults in Ed, but this isn’t Lord of the Flies, either. Real kids live and act out in a private social world that adults rarely notice and barely remember, and that’s the world—the place where all the non-kids are invisible—that’s the setting of the Eds’ show. At its best, as I said, it reminds you of what it was like to be a pre-teen. At its worst, it reminds you of why you’re glad you’re not still a pre-teen. Quite often, it’s at its best and its worst simultaneously.

“Hanky Panky Hullabaloo,” as it happens, is far from both extremes. It’s set during Valentine’s Day, and if you remember being a boy, you know what that means: being grossed out by the opposite sex while secretly hoping a girl likes you and then turning awkward and confused and stupid when one of them actually makes an approach. (Hmmm. Except for the “being grossed out” part, growing up hasn’t led to much of a change for some us.) Here it’s Edd (the moderately brainy and ethical one) who’s got the feelings. May Kanker reciprocates, sort of, but the little cartoon hearts don’t start bubbling into the air until two cupid-pixies shoot them with amour-tipped arrows. Wackiness ensues.

To be honest, this is a pretty dull story, about as chalky and flavorless as a candy heart. The regular Ed episodes I’ve seen have been both more baroque and more absurd, packing multiple outrageous plots into their twelve-minute shorts. “Hanky Panky Hullabaloo” takes up a full thirty-minute slot, but not enough happens in it to justify the longer running time. The set-up, which has a heart-broken May falling for a sympathetic Edd, takes forever to arrive, and even once it does, not much happens except for some repetitive slapstick and gross-out moments. The upended emotional world is set right side up by the end, and there is even a brief MOS (moment of sentiment) just before the end credits roll, but unless you have a bottomless appetite for cartoon beatings, those credits are not likely to come soon enough.

ImageVisually, I don’t see much to distinguish this special from the regular episodes (but, as I say, I’m not a regular viewer), and whether that’s a plus or a minus depends on your feelings about Ed‘s (shall we say) exuberant style. Some find the artistry impressive; others find it unbearable; I find it both. It’s hard not to respect a show that uses such expressive and outrageous poses—the “acting” is terrific—but after awhile my eyes begin to bleed. Its style is a perfect fit because the physical extremism mirrors and expresses the characters’ psychological extremism. But it sometimes seems like Danny Antonucci and his collaborators subscribe to the Mae West philosophy: Too much of anything is wonderful. Me, I demur.

“Hanky Panky Hullabaloo” may or may not please its many fans, but I doubt it will convert anyone else. The faithful and the merely curious can catch its premiere on Cartoon Network at 7:00pm (ET/PT) on Friday, February 11, with 9:00pm and 11:30pm reruns. It will air again on Valentine’s Day itself at 7:30pm.

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