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"Camp Lazlo" Falls Short of the Bar Set By "Rocko"

by on July 7, 2005


Camp Lazlo is the latest series from Joe Murray, and it follows the antics of Lazlo, Raj and Clam, three kids spending a never-ending summer at Camp Kidney, who drive their scoutmaster, Lumpus, crazy, compete against the girl scouts on the other side of the lake, and that’s it. Though the setting is a creative idea that leaves room for funny storylines, the first two episodes unfortunately took the path of least resistance. Warning: if you were expecting a series with the same wit as Murray’s Rocko’s Modern Life, chances are you will be disappointed with this new show. In fact, you might as well skip this entire review because what I’m about to say won’t be encouraging.

The scripts are all cliché. The borrowed jokes that pervade the show haven’t been executed right since the classic Looney Tunes, and they’re not going to become funny again now. Some shows, like Freakazoid or Family Guy, manage to use self-awareness to turn clichés in on themselves, but Lazlo doesn’t even aspire to this. The plots in each of these episodes would all be at home in an episode of As Told By Ginger, Rugrats: All Grown Up, or one of those summer camp live-action films, which for the most part are actually funnier.

The character roster is full of redundant, needless redundancy. A set of twins and a set of triplets are inexplicable, especially since they don’t appear to be different in any real way. Why add an identical character that does nothing but finish the other character’s dialogue? Even one of the protagonists, Clam, serves no real purpose. The show could star Lazlo and Raj as a duo and no one would even notice.

The show looks OK in the technical aspect. Though the animation is crisp, gone is the delightfully exaggerated, messy slapstick of Rocko. The poses are standard and unremarkable. The background art, though quite appealing, is nothing new.

Unfortunately, Lazlo is closer to modern factory cartoons like Atomic Betty than to its own predecessor, Rocko’s Modern Life. As always, the show may pick up in the third episode, but alas, if the first two episodes are any indication such a miraculous turnaround seems unlikely.

Red Giant:

Camp Lazlo, the new summer show for Cartoon Network created by Joe Murray, is the incestuous spawn of the former staffs of Rocko and SpongeBob SquarePants, and it shows.

The show follows the camp life of three Bean Scouts and cabinmates, Lazlo, Raj, and Clam. This trio bug and annoy the scoutmaster, compete with the Squirrel Scouts across the lake and generally make life harder for everyone they meet. The problem is that the relationships between characters like these have been done before, and better. The key problem is that here the main characters are not only not as funny, but they’re kids, not adults. And as Roald Dahl would tell you were he still around, a stupid adult is always funnier than a stupid kid. The plots in the first two episodes were just dull, and almost seem too simple even for the 6-11 demographic.

That said, the art and vocal work are both well-executed and polished. Tom Kenny, who played Heffer in Rocko, underplays Scoutmaster Lumpus nicely, and Carlos Alazraqui, who played Rocko, attacks his part with a glee that seems to drive him into a higher vocal register. The animation is of the high quality we can expect from Cartoon Network, and the love that went into making the backgrounds fit the wacky character designs is obvious. Lazlo wins over its predecessors as a much more visually interesting show.

Though there were some positive aspects to these first episodes, overall they were a disappointment.

Camp Lazlo premieres tomorrow, Friday, July 8, at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

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