The Venture Bros. Season Five
Warm up the cloning machine - Cinelinx checks out The Venture Bros. Season Five Blu-ray set!
In this Cartoon Network/Adult Swim animated show, the Venture family trots around the globe fighting spies and other villains with a unique band of allies. Features the voices of Patrick Warburton and James Urbaniak. This one-disc Blu-ray set includes all eight regular episodes and two special episodes from the show’s fifth season. Episodes included are “What Color Is Your Cleansuit?” “Venture Libre,” “Sphinx Rising,” “Spanakopita,” “O.S.I. Love You,” “Momma’s Boys,” “Bot Seeks Bot,” “The Devil’s Grip,” “A Very Venture Halloween,” and “From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story.”
Created by Jackson Publick.
Executive Producers, Directors, and Writers: Jackson Publick (aka Christopher McCullouch) and Doc Hammer (aka Eric Hammer).
The Venture Bros., the twisted throwback to Johnny Quest and 60’s-era spy adventures airing on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, is certainly an acquired taste. It is not for general audiences, or even young audiences, with its’ adult themes, strong language, and sexual content. Even so, it has become an underground hit for the network’s line of Adult Swim late-night programs, mostly because it is flat-out funny, a unique concept that rises on a wave of obscure pop-culture jokes and frat-boy humor.
The show follows the exploits of Hank and Dean Venture, twin brothers and heirs to the once-great Venture Industries, which still occupies the crumbling complex of buildings built during the company’s heyday. The twins’ father, Rusty Venture, hasn’t been nearly as successful as his father, who founded the company, but he does manage to keep the family active in the spy game. His inventions, and an odd assortment of allies, make for some inventive plotlines in Season Five against villains that often parody James Bond baddies. That includes the Monarch, a butterflyish nemesis, and St. Cloud, who drives Michael Keaton’s 1989 Batmobile and is an enemy of Venture ally Billy Quizboy. The mysterious Council of 13 also makes an appearance, as the governing body of the evil Guild of Calamitous Intent.
The Venture twins make a pretty big discovery about themselves in Season Five (you’ll have to watch the Halloween special first, before the season’s episodes, so things make sense), and besides the usual turmoil in the Venture household, there’s a variety of morphing creatures, rogue Frankenstein-like monsters, traitorous moles, and a betrayal courtesy of a Teddy Ruxpin-like bear. Explaining the plots further does no good; they must be seen to be fully appreciated.
The drawback for The Venture Bros is that it gets too clever for its’ own good. It’s the same fault shows like Community ran into. With so many inside jokes and pop culture references, it loses its own sense of identity. Instead of enjoying the characters and the writing, you are trying to catch the hip references. The 60s Johnny Quest/James Bond themes works well enough without descending too far into parody, but when each episode takes on a theme (the G.I. Joe episode, the Clash of the Titans episode, etc.), following along with all the bits distracts from the real charm of the show. Instead of feeling inspired, many of the season five episodes feel badly derivative. While some episodes are quite good, others just meander from one inside joke to the next.
The Venture Bros. isn’t for everyone, and even fans of the show will likely agree that Season Five didn’t quite raise the bar compared to past seasons. Even so, enjoying the show depends on who you are; the greater your grip on current pop culture, the funnier the show will be to you. The characters and settings are incredibly inventive, but you’ll wish the stories themselves lived up to them. The jokes are hilarious, but you’ll wish the narrative was stronger. It makes for a disappointing season overall.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is exceptional, with razor-sharp detail and bold, bright colors. No hint of pixelation, motion blur, or loss of information is apparent. This is a great looking high definition image. A Dolby TrueHD mix is fantastic, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included as well.
In addition to the eight regular episodes, Season Five had two specials, included here as special features. A 30 minute special called “A Very Venture Halloween” makes a pretty big revelation, and a 12 minute special called “From The Ladle To The Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story” plays like a VH1 “Behind the Music” parody, focusing on the Venture Boys’ band. Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer provide an audio commentary track for the Halloween special.
Six minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes are included, both in finished and storyboard form. The quality of the video is very good, and the content of most of the scenes are assorted jokes and gags. The scenes are not viewable separately; rather, all the scenes are grouped in one montage, with a title card listing which episode they are from.
A three minute short called “Fax My Grandson” stars Larry Murphy and is billed as “The Further Audio Adventures of Diamond Backdraft.” It isn’t quite animated, as you will see, and is basically one rather funny three-minute inside joke.
The big plus here is the audio commentary by Publick and Hammer on all eight episodes. While actual insight into the making of each episode isn’t brought up much, but you do get a peek inside two hilariously insane minds, which is just as good. The Blu-ray set comes in a slipcase resembling a 1950s-era pulp novel. It’s a nice touch.
Release date: March 4, 2014
Rating: TV-MA (language, sexual content, violence)
Running time: 198 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (episodes only, not included with special features)
Special features: “A Very Venture Halloween” bonus episode, “From Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story” bonus episode, Deleted and extended scenes, “Fax My Grandson” short.
Audio Commentary: One all eight episodes (and the Halloween special) by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.
Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The Bottom Line: If Venture is Your Cup of Tea, Drink It Up
The Venture Bros. is an oddly entertaining homage to both Johnny Quest and the classic 60s James Bond, and the humor is squarely aimed at the 18 to 24 set. It certainly isn't for kids, but adults will find the pop culture references and the off-color jokes worthy of late-night viewing. Season Five isn't quite as good as past seasons, but even bad Venture is better than none at all.