The Skullduggery Steals the Show in Nickelodeon’s The Barbarian and the Troll

23 Apr

Nickelodeon to Premiere 'The Barbarian and the Troll' on Friday, April 2,  at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT)"By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

On Nickelodeon, YTV and YouTube.
Please check local listings for Friday evening showtimes

Nickelodeon’s The Barbarian and The Troll is a love letter to the antics from the original Muppet Show, and tosses in some of Matt Groening’s style from Futurama for good measure. Technically, he’s been producing Disenchantment, which I simply lost interest on over time. This puppet version has a better appeal since it doesn’t feature as much violence.

Brendar (voiced by Spencer Grammar) is very much like a Leela figure, fiercely independent and sassy, and gets her title not by choice. Her side-kick, Evan (series creator Drew Massey) dislikes trying to extol tolls from the bridge he’s supposed to manage. His singing chops are great (the tunes are catchy) and I’d have to say he is more of a bard than a mad troll. However, the people aren’t exactly praising him for his skill. He’s every much a level one D&D character with a charisma value of about five.

True to the fantasy formula, they form an adventuring party, and Brendar takes the lead. I’d guess she’s at least a level six warrior (with a magical talking axe) on a quest to rescue her brother, Kendar. A demon by the name of Alvin kidnapped him. 

There’s Skelly (Allan Trautman), the general of a skeleton patrol who is causing problems in the world of Gothmoria. Their antics are crazier than those from the movie, Army of Darkness, and I suspect that’s where this puppetry team is drawing their inspiration from. Their moments are laugh-out-loud funny, especially the third episode where Skelly has lost his body, and his minions have to figure out how to put their leader back together again. Humpty Dumpty never had it this bad!

Buried in this same narrative is the wizard Horus Scrums (also Trautman) plans for this world. There’s a simplicity in the narrative that’s enjoyable. It’s not too crazy like Lord of the Rings.

Production-wise, the visuals switches from wide shots of the puppets animated by wire to close-ups where puppeteers are tucked below the camera line. This technique works very well to make the show come alive in the same level as The Dark Crystal.

But the big selling point is with Evan’s musical numbers. Somehow, they turn into full blown orchestrations (which may get addressed a fourth wall breaking moment one day). Ultimately, it’s the nostalgia which makes this program great viewing for older audiences who grew up on Henson’s many puppet products. Kids won’t necessarily understand the humour, but I was cracking up whenever the skeletons are on screen. They are the reason I love this show lots. They tickle my funny bone!

4 Stars out of 5

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: