Hamster & Gretel Has A Big Reputation To Maintain
Hamster & Gretel hit my radar for one reason: it was made by Dan Povenmire. You likely know his voice and creations, even if you don’t know his name. He’s part of the team that made Phineas and Ferb, and he voices Dr. Doofenshmirtz. His shows are well known for their absurdist humor and earworm songs.
And, well, the short version of this review is that Hamster & Gretel is more of the same. But a few things of note set them apart.
Hamster & Gretel Has A Few Unique Aspects To It
The first is the age range. Hamster & Gretel feels like it’s made for younger viewers. Our main character seems younger than Phineas or Ferb, for one, and episodes often have morals or lessons. This isn’t always the case, but between a segment about how important math is, and another about honoring one’s heritage and culture, it’s obvious there was some attention given to imparting wisdom.
The second is the main selling point. Phineas and Ferb played up the interesting creativity of inventions, and the little I’ve seen of Milo Murphy’s Law focused on chaotic mayhem. Hamster & Gretel is a superhero show with all the usual trappings. Because of this, it also has more aggressive action scenes, sometimes with detailed fight choreography. It’s obviously played down and sanitized—no one is likely to bleed or anything—but Gretel hits people with punches established to break metal. Episode three’s “Superhero Sibling Rivalry” has an extended mid-air fight, including spin-throwing someone into a wall and slamming someone’s head into the concrete. The animation is a little barebone most of the time, but they step it up a notch for the superhero antics.
Sadly, though, having this focus takes away from the comedy. It would derail the plot. But, when there’s room, it’s usually a treat. It’s almost always irreverent, absurdist, or fourth-wall jokes. They get a lot of mileage out of characters talking way more chill and friendly than would make sense for the situation. Some jokes are so oddly specific and detailed that you wonder how someone even thought it up. The clown with a boulder statue in episode one caught me off guard and left me giggling. Not every joke works (the requisite “cell phones are bad” commentary is overdone even as a gag), and some jokes have seemingly unintended implications, but if you like the comedy in Phineas and Ferb, you’ll like this.
Some Of The Show’s Jokes Are Just Really Funny
Now, with all I’ve said, you might think Hamster & Gretel doesn’t cover much new ground, but I think it leans much harder into sibling dynamics. Candace and her brothers had heartfelt moments, but their plots were often only partially connected. A reoccurring joke is that Phineas and Ferb don’t seem to understand that she’s trying to get them in trouble. Hamster & Gretel finds a lot of its heart and conflict in the tumultuous but ultimately very supportive connection between Gretel (voiced by Melissa Povenmire) and her older brother. It’s sweet to see how willing Kevin (voiced by Michael Cimino) is to help his sister. And it’s nice to see how Gretel is happy for Kevin when he gets to hang with his crush Hiromi (voiced by Hiromi Dames). Also, it’s always refreshing to see a cartoon with a parental relationship defined by something other than bickering.
So yeah, Hamster & Gretel isn’t a game-changing classic. I was hoping for a few more laughs per episode, and it didn’t have anything close to “There’s a Platypus Controlling Me” or “Ain’t Got Rhythm” in terms of iconic music, but it has a lot of heart, a lot of creativity, and usually a great sense of humor. I’m not sure I can recommend watching more than a few episodes if you’re an older viewer, but if you’re a parent and your kid has blasted their way through the other two series, this is more good stuff from a proven creative team.
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