By ROBERT LLOYD
April 10, 2009
A parody of a genre that itself regularly approaches -- even embraces -- self-parody, “Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire” brought rippling pecs and flashing blades to Comedy Central Thursday night.
A co-production between the home of "Reno 911!" and, surprisingly, the BBC, the series is less a take-off on big-budget sword-and-sorcery films than on its more modest television kin -- such Saturday-afternoon syndicated fare as “Xena: Warrior Princess” and the recent "Legend of the Seeker," whose visual grammar it replicates expertly. And though it is often stunningly juvenile in its humor, there is already something stunningly juvenile about the stuff it lampoons. I'm not convinced it's all that good, but "Kröd" may be the right show for the right audience.
Much of the humor comes from the old dodge of interpolating modern attitudes and phrases like "hostile work environment," "PR nightmare," "relationship tune-up" and "take a mulligan" into a historical mise-en-scène. But unlike Mel Brooks' “When Things Were Rotten” or Zucker-Abraham-Zucker's “Police Squad!,” et al., "Kröd" does not lampoon specific pop-cultural targets or indulge in surrealist puns. Everything is done within the context of character, and it's possible to watch the show as an adventure series, albeit one in which the heroes often shoot themselves, and one other, in the foot. The swordplay is well-staged, the sets and costumes are as artfully done as if it were the thing itself, not the thing making fun of the thing itself.
Buff Sean Maguire (who did similar duty in the gladiator parody "Meet the Spartans") stars as Kröd, the leader of a ragtag band of rebels fighting a tyrannical empire -- the usual. Joining him are cartwheeling warrior girlfriend Aneka (India de Beaufort), for whom "sex is just another weapon in my arsenal"; a warlock (Kevin Hart) who knows no magic; a pig-faced man (Steve Speirs); and Bruce (Marques Ray), who is gay. I can't quite work out whether the abundance of gay jokes here is regressive or enlightened -- like, "We still think there's something intrinsically funny about homosexuality," or "We're so past thinking that there's something intrinsically funny about homosexuality that we can joke about it now."
If anything tips the scale in the series' favor, it's Matt Lucas, from "Little Britain," as the evil Chancellor Dongalor, a mid-level bad guy with his sights set on world domination. There's something delightfully musical in his delivery, whether demanding "Find me that lens!" (for his apocalyptic weapon, a mystical eye), calling for "juice and muffins," or apologizing to the latest person he's killed by mistake. He is just the latest in a long and honorable line of camp British villains, and he does not disgrace himself, except when he means to.
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