The Cuphead Show review: Half full of lukewarm nostalgia pieces

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Watching The Cuphead ShowNetflix’s new adaptation of run-and-gunner Studio MDHR starring two anthropomorphic cutting brothers, it’s hard to say who exactly the series is aimed at.

Like the game before it, The Cuphead Show revolves around Cuphead (Tru Valentino) and his brother Mugman (Frank Todaro), two rambunctious talking mugs who love each other almost as much as they love to fight whenever their kind tutor, Elder Kettle (Joe Hanna), is looking not . Although the boys enjoy indulging in all sorts of mischief in and around their tiny cottage, they know a world of adventure awaits them on the rest of the Inkwell Islands, where they are not meant to roam unsupervised. It’s during one of the brothers’ trips to town to spend time at a carnival that they end up crossing paths with the Devil (Luke Millington-Drake), a singing and dancing con man who aims to possess Cuphead’s soul, a turn of events that Cuphead himself doesn’t seem so concerned about at first.

Like The Cuphead Showthe first of 12 minutes states its premises, you can see some of the logic Cuphead co-creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer (who also serve as the series‘ co-executive producers) applied while figuring out how to adapt the story of the original 12-episode game. While there are still plenty of the game’s main storylines that follow the brothers as they are forced to find ways to outsmart the devil, The Cuphead Show tries to spend time fleshing out the lives of its supporting characters like the villainous King Dice (Wayne Brady) and Mrs. Chalice (Grey Griffin). It’s almost always great when video game expansions – whether they’re actual playable game content or “expansions” in the narrative sense of how The Cuphead Show is – go for that kind of character expansion and world building.

In The Cuphead ShowIn the case, however, the way the series jumps between storylines from episode to episode sometimes feels a bit disjointed, like a project best consumed as additional material to the game. When you pause on a given frame of The Cuphead Showalmost everything will look like a still image from a show based on Cuphead the game. That’s not exactly the case when hitting the play button, however, as a host of small changes here and there add up to a final product that feels like a version of Cuphead which has lost some of its essence in the process of translation into multiple media.

With The Cuphead Show being a modern cartoon aimed at young audiences, you can see why the show’s creative team couldn’t exactly rely on text dialogue blocks set to old music to drive its story forward. Rather than settling into a measured pace worthy of classic Fleischer Studios animation that The Cuphead ShowThe aesthetic of the series returns, the pacing of the new series errs more on the modern side of things – i.e. it’s fast, loud and a bit more frenetic than it should be. to be. In some scenes that are clearly based on Cupheadthe frenetic energy of the series works as a sort of mirror to the stress that can arise when trying to rack up perfect in-game rankings.

But since it’s a show you’re watching, not a game you’re actively participating in, that same energy often ends up doing The Cuphead Show feeling like he was rushing in fear that people would be interested in him. The speed with which each of The Cuphead ShowThe episodes’ moves also play a role in the series’ overall sense of not feeling quite like the homage to classic Fleischer Studios animation that the game was. The Cuphead Show would work best if each image was illustrated by hand, but rather that it seems uncertain how much energy to put into its faux-vintage versus playing to modern storytelling sensibilities.

When The Cuphead Show begins to sharpen his focus a bit and deepen Cuphead and Mugman’s fight for Cuphead’s soul, you can clearly see how close he is to capturing the same kind of magic that did Futuramait is “Hell Is Other Robots”, one of the strongest and most memorable episodes of this series. Most of the necessary elements are there, and it’s commendable how detailed each of them is. The Cuphead ShowThe episodes manage to get carried away given their constraints. However, the density of detail does not always make for excellent television, and in The Cuphead Showopting for less in favor of giving everyone on screen a chance to breathe might have been the better option.

The Cuphead Show hits Netflix on February 18.

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