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"Kick Buttowski": Lame Ass

Dear Walt Disney Television,

In consulting the internet, I find that Thesaurus.com provides only thirty-three direct synonyms for the word “mediocre.” Is it your intention to churn out animated series that are … deep breath … “characterless, colorless, indifferent, inferior, insignificant, mean, of poor quality, pedestrian, undistinguished, uninspired” and “vanilla” until I have exhausted the English language’s ability to characterize such “base, ratty, rinky-dink” and “rubbishy” offerings as Kick Buttowski? Are you going to force me to reach for “mittelmäßig” and “middelmatig”? In extremity, will I have deploy “μέτριος” and “平凡”? Must I break Babel Fish before I can adequately convey this series’ sense of two-bit trumpery and meretricious cheapness?

The title character of your latest offering is a fat little gravel-voiced turd who fancies himself a daredevil. He dresses up like Evel Knievel—pardon me while I check the calendar; no, it really is 2010, nearly forty years after Knievel’s heyday—and is given to muttering, in a dead-pan voice that rumbles out of a heavy-lidded but otherwise expressionless face, such dribbly clichés as “Let’s do this” or “Let’s rock” before executing some kind of stunt. Really, did you people actually think this would be an attractive character? Why? Do you like people who are self-besotted, and who think that the world exists as a mirror to reflect their wholly unearned sense of cool?

To make it worse, I note, he is abetted in these antics by— Oh, who cares? I can’t even remember his name, and I watched two episodes only thirty minutes ago. It was “George” or “Rolly” or “Batman” or something. Actually, I don’t think it was “Batman,” but I’ll act as a little one-man focus group and tell you I would have liked the series better if you had given that wholly inappropriate nickname to the dewy-eyed but morbidly obese pile of hyperactive hero-worship who follows Kick around and makes him feel admired. Kick’s regular antagonist, I’m guessing, will be his older, teenage brother, whose name also escapes me but which definitely isn’t something memorable like “Otto von Bismarck.” I suspect there might also be a regularly appearing professional daredevil who is missing a left hand and therefore, I seem to remember, boasts a name like “Stumpy” or something. How clever you are.

Plots? Well, in “Dead Man’s Drop,” you have provided a story in which Kick tries to play a skateboarding trick on a dangerous piece of turf; failing, he has to fight his way past that brother so he can try pulling it off a second, more successful time. We can all guess how that one ends. In “Stumped” he has to find the cola prize that will let him ride shotgun with his idol, that professional daredevil, when said hero performs a new stunt in a colosseum show. I will award no prizes here, however, if your viewers can see the ending coming from miles away. In “If Books Could Kill” he has to battle an evil librarian to retrieve a new book accidentally dropped into the book depository. Will anyone suspect he doesn’t triumphantly succeed? And in “There Will Be Nachos” he tries to crash a party being thrown by his brother, believing all the teenagers will think he is the really cool and awesome member of the family. Like all the others, it boasts a non-ironic happy ending in which Kick glorifies himself in front of all the bystanders and humiliates anyone who happened to get in his way. Why these triumphs would make you admire this vainglorious little bastard, rather than want to punch him in the face, I don’t know.

The basic problem with Kick Buttowski—beyond the fact that the main character is both completely bland and completely odious, and that he and all the other characters are stereotypes carved from Styrofoam who mouth boring, banal catchphrases and strike poses and expressions we’ve seen thousands of times before—is that it’s a one-note cartoon idea repeated without variation. Most comedy cartoon series feature episodes in which the characters perform some kind of crazy, cartoony battle with lots of leaping and flying and diving and driving. These bits usually come at the climax of the plot, something to put an exclamation point on the story. Kick Buttowski is nothing except these cartoony climaxes. And this makes them boring because the episodes don’t build up to them, and they don’t punctuate any other kind of story. It starts at eleven and it stays at eleven, and it’s nothing but a lot of undifferentiated white noise blasting out of the TV at eleven.

Animation is “fluid” in that low, quick-cutting way that was fun and interesting when Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken were using it to tell idiosyncratic stories, but which is just cut-rate when employed on hackery like this. I hope your budget department is happy with the numbers associated with this series, because it sure looks like something that a penny-pincher would admire.

This uninspired compendium of cliché is so relentless dingy, in both concept and execution, that it makes Phineas and Ferb look like something from the golden age of Uncle Walt, something to put alongside Pinocchio. I’m sorry to break out the elephant gun this way, but— No, now that I think about it, I’m not sorry. Does anyone at your television animation division look at a series like Kick Buttowski and wish the founder of your studio were still alive so he could see it? Or have you hired someone to check the mausoleum every day to make sure that, yes, he’s still dead?

Kick Buttowski airs on Disney XD on Saturday mornings at 8:30am ET/PT. All images are Copyright © 2009 DisneyXD.

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