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"Atomic Betty" Arrested, Charged With Grand Theft Stereotype

by on September 8, 2004

Canadian superhero Atomic Betty was arrested by local police at a 7-Eleven yesterday and charged with trying to shoplift a spunky, determined attitude that exemplifies courage (current retail price: $6.99). After she was taken in for questioning, it was discovered that she had also smuggled in an episode guide to The Powerpuff Girls for purposes unknown. Witnesses claimed surprise, less at the fact that a superhero had been arrested than at the discovery that Canada actually had a superhero of its own.

Detective Matt Wilson of Super Dangerous Sexy Squad filed the following report:

Atomic BettyI’m getting sick of using the phrase “could be so much better than it is.”

MEGAS XLR could be so much better than it is. Justice League Unlimited could be so much better than it is. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends could be so much better than it is. In fact, I’ve tried not to review anything in awhile, since everyone around me already knows what I’ll say.

Thank God! I can finally review a show that that doesn’t require that phrase.

Atomic Betty is a horrible show that could never be better than it is and couldn’t possibly get any worse.

… Aw, dammit, you mean I have to say more?!

Atomic Betty comes from Atomic Cartoons, and from Atomic Cartoons I expect witty, character-based humor series. That is not what I got from Betty, and I feel like a Teen Titan, betrayed by people I thought I could trust. Specifically, I feel betrayed by Jono Howard and Mike Kubat, who went from doing fantastic episodes of Ed Edd n Eddy to doing the lousiest cartoon scripts I have ever envisioned reading in my head. Instead of character-based humor we get situation-based humor, a genre filled with dozens upon dozens of cartoon failures. And please, by all means, add Atomic Betty to the pile. Because the situations are not funny.

In fact, the situations, like everything else about Atomic Betty, are stolen goods (or, to play Jay Ward for a moment, stolen bads).

Everything in Atomic Betty is borrowed from another show. It’s an amalgam of generic teen superhero concepts, lazily thrown together with no discernable love or care. We have Betty, the extremely one-dimensional “fighting crime before bedtime” girl who—GASP!!!—isn’t perfect. We have her two sidekicks: the stereotypical clumsy oaf who looks like a Sniz and Fondue character, and a “smooth-talking” robot with one of the worst voice actors I’ve ever heard. And these three go around fighting crime while getting into HI-LAR-IOUS (TM) hijinks around the school campus!

But that’s not enough. We need more ripoff characters. Okay, throw in the “got tiresome ten years ago” bratty-snotty girl who makes fun of Betty. Throw in the CRAAAAA-AAAAZY parents, and make sure they’re off-the-wall unrelatable! And let’s make all the superheroes and villains animals, because animals are so gosh darn cute and funny. Don’t forget to sprinkle in the “is he or isn’t he?” romantic interest. Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere! It’s no place special, but it feels really familiar!

So every episode is exactly the same. Betty stars in a plot borrowed from some other TV show, fights the extremely done-before anthropomorphic cat archnemesis, and finds some solution to her personal problem through “action,” “teamwork,” “friendship,” or some other word used to sell merchandise. Some of these plots spoon up gunk from the bottom of the barrel of Saturday morning clichés—yeah, “bottom of the barrel” is a cliché too; you see what this show has done to me?!—such as the “bad hair on Picture Day” story, the “pet animal gets hilariously involved with mission” story, or the “fight evil by singing pop music in a most obnoxious and untalented way” story. I just do not understand the fascination animation studios feel for episodes that end with characters singing while the other characters dance along or cry to it. (Sorry, Batman.)

I don’t know what makes this show worse: that it hinges on situation humor that has been done before in every other cartoon, or that the characters are so uninteresting that they could never be funny anyway. It just feels like no one on this show (except the animation staff) is trying. No one seems to want to put out an original product. They’re just happy being this mediocre nothing that will not leave a footprint on Cartoon Network when it airs.

The animation is pretty damn believable—except for scenes in which the frame rates drop, you wouldn’t be able to tell immediately that it was done in Toon Boom. (Some people will call it a Flash toon, but they’ll be wrong.) The problem is that the characters do not animate at all, which is something I really dislike about Atomic Cartoons. Ed Edd n Eddy has some of the most expressive characters in the past ten years of animation. So why is Atomic Betty reduced to two simple stock expressions (happy and mad)? Where is the personality? There are vehicles that squash and stretch as they zip around, but none of the characters do. That’s so backwards!

I’m surprised they bothered to put up extra money for three dimensional animation, but they did, and it pays off. Unlike Duck Dodgers, in which it feels really phony, the celshaded CGI in Atomic Betty could easily equal Futurama‘s in quality. It’s used a lot too. Pretty much any vehicle or space environment is in 3D, and it’s pretty high quality. If you watch Atomic Betty for anything, you can at least rest your eyes on the pleasing environment design. But that’s about it.

You can tell that you don’t like a show when every new paragraph of the review becomes more and more of a chore to type. Atomic Betty felt like a chore before I even started. This show has nothing going for it. It has no originality, no spark, no chemistry, no characterization, no humor. This show is so empty, it makes Totally Spies look deep.

In the future, Canada, please export your clichés to another country. The U.S. market is already flooded.

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