Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes

Caveat emptor, young animation viewer, for this latest collection in the Ren and Stimpy pantheon is not quite like the cartoons you may remember from the past. Featuring the episodes aired on the short lived "Adult Party Cartoon” run on Spike TV, these cartoons amped up the gross outs and the violence while adding generous amounts of sexual content and naughty language. The end result is a mixed bag that adds an interesting new take on the characters but doesn’t match the cleverness and anarchic subversive nature of the original series, the first season in particular. Most of these cartoons were written around that time period, as apparently requested by their fan base, but were rejected by Nickelodeon for being too risqué. After Spike took over in 2003, they gave creator John Kricfalusi and his crew carte blanche to do as they pleased and that level of freedom acts as both a benefit and burden. In the case of "Stimpy’s Pregnant,” "The Altruists” and "Ren Seeks Help,” there are some truly great and twisted moments heightened by surreal storylines and Three Stooges-esque slapstick. These are contrasted by the less than inspired "Naked Beach Frenzy” and "Onward and Upward,” which try too hard to push the limits of good taste and end up coming across as about as funny and clever as your average episode of Drawn Together. It’s not the un-PC nature of these cartoons that’s the problem, just that the jokes are too obvious and pander to the dumbed down frat boy style of humour that’s currently in vogue. It’s incredible what a little restraint and subtlety can achieve, and there are too many moments where those traits are needed here. Bonuses include introductions to each show by Kricfalusi, in which he explains the process behind the cartoons and talks to members of the Spümco team. Also included are character designs and pencil tests for "Ren Seeks Help” and "Naked Beach Frenzy,” as well as an unfunny introduction to the whole collection by Weird Al Yankovic. (Paramount)