Five years ago, Regular Show made its debut on Cartoon Network, and I have been a diehard fan ever since. Its surrealist sci-fi plots fed my geekdom while letting me connect with the slacker 20-something character archetypes of lead characters Mordecai and Rigby. What 90s-kid geek doesn’t connect with the dead-end job and video game obsession these two embody? So, I made sure to jump at the chance to bring my insight to you readers on what to expect from the feature-length Regular Show: The Movie in a special advance review.
Regular Show was one of the first shows to come out of the Cartoon Network Shorts Program, which is an artist-driven incubator for creative talent to develop and pitch new show ideas. Like many of their current lineup of shows, J.G. Quintel’s slacker comedy was picked from a group of many shorts, and premiered it’s first episode five years ago. For a Cartoon Network series, that is a decently long life span. The absurd and sometimes macabre adventures of Mordecai and Rigby follows two young adults stuck in a dead-end job at a local park. Add a surrealist, The Mighty Boosh-style humor on top of the lovable-slacker set-up that has been popular since the sleeper success of Kevin Smith’s Clerks, and you have a sense of the show’s unique tone. So with that kind of hype, what would Quintel and crew do for a feature-length movie?
Yeah, they’d go all out for a story, while maintaining a sense of emotion for the characters involved. The film offers a story that is half space opera and half time travel adventure. Beginning in an unidentified time in the future, Rigby, Skips, Benson, Muscle Man, and High-Five Ghost are all in league with a rebellious group known as The Intergalactic Park Rangers. The IPR are planning an attack against a large space installation run by evil scientist (and former high school science teacher) Mr. Ross and Mordecai. That’s right — Mordecai. He has allowed a past betrayal by Rigby to drive him to Ross’s side. When their mission to destroy “The Time-nado” fails, Rigby rushes to travel back in time and enlist the help of present-day Mordecai and Rigby in stopping themselves from creating the Time-nado while working on a failed science experiment in high school. Future-Rigby also warns Present-Rigby that “his secret” must be told in order to stop Mordecai from abandoning him.
What feels like a long explanation is only about the first ten minutes of the film, and things only get more ridiculous and over-the-top from there. They story maintains everything that makes Regular Show so great, with a sci-fi plot that is weirdly complex yet easy to digest, the characteristic humor of the park employees, and plenty of referential humor to other great time travel comedies like Back To The Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Despite how complicated the plot may seem, it is actually quite easy to follow. As long as viewers are willing to accept that some parts will not be explained and should be taken at face value, they will be just fine with it. What is fascinating is the more emotional through-line that follows the story. Though the crazy adventure through time takes a front seat, there is a secondary story of trust and friendship that haunts Mordecai and Rigby as a major betrayal from their high school days is revealed. Their friendship has always been a major theme of the show and has been put through the wringer plenty of times, but to see Rigby finally learn a lesson about what it really means to be a friend is far more touching that one might expect.
What elevates these themes is the great voice work of the main cast of Quintel, William Salyers, Mark Hamill, Sam Marin and Jeff Bennett, as well as guest voices like Anchorman’s David Koechner as Principal Dean and comedian Jason Mantzoukas as Mr. Ross. In particular, Mantzoukas steals the show for this film with a powerhouse performance and the signature style of humor he brings to the power-mad Ross.
Regular Show: The Movie is an absolutely bonkers sci-fi comedy trip that will be loved by fans of the show, and is not a bad place to introduce those who may not have seen it before. It is a perfect example of what the show is capable of doing, and actually has a heart to its story that few would have expected from the typically off-the-wall series. There is truly nothing the film does that works against itself and what it hopes to accomplish, which makes it well worth your time.
Rating: 5 out of 5 burritos
Regular Show: The Movie is available digitally on September 1 and released on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 13.
Editor’s note: A preview of Regular Show: The Movie was made available to Nerdist by Cartoon Network.