Fox Studios has released another television show for their fall lineup: The animated/live action comedy ‘Son of Zorn.’ Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writers behind ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ and, more recently, ‘The Lego Movie,’ the show follows the seven-foot-tall half-naked muscular animated barbarian Zorn, voiced by Jason Sudeikis, as he attempts navigate suburbia, find a job and reconnect with his estranged, non-animated family.
Zorn hails from the island of Zephyria, an animated landscape filled with monsters and cartoon violence. It’s pretty much Eternia from ‘He-Man,’ but with more death. Zorn decides to visit the ‘fruit of his loins’, Alangulon aka ‘Alan’, played by Johnny Pemberton of ‘21 Jump Street’ fame. He clashes with his ex-wife Edie (Cheryl Hines) who encourages him to reconnect with his 17-year-old son, whilst discouraging some of Zorn’s more barbaric shenanigans-- such as getting Alan a giant death bird in lieu of a car.
If there’s one thing to be said about this show, it keeps the gags going. There’s barely a line of dialogue that passes by without Zorn saying/doing something ridiculous or a moment without a joke on the horizon. Whether it’s Zorn stabbing a giant bird to death or trying to make a phone call, the writers do their best to keep the audience laughing. Sudeikis, for his part, plays Zorn exactly how he is: oafishly misogynistic, violent and utterly unaware of the social conventions outside of his barbarian homeland.
Edie, for her part, is a little baffling. You’d wonder how an approximately five-foot-something blonde woman would get it on with an animated barbarian man. Truly, love (or regrettable hookups) transcends many barriers. Though there is some personality to her character in the show, at this point she feels like the down to earth ex-wife in an Adam Sandler movie that wants her child to reconnect with their father, while also holding animosity for her ex-husband's man-child ways. However, she has potential. There is a moment where she has a genuine moment of connection, when she appeals to Zorn to spend time with Alan before it’s too late. Whether her character will remain strictly a gag/obstacle remains to be seen.
Alan, I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, Pemberton plays the ‘jaded’ part of a 17-year-old kid that’s terminally embarrassed by his father pretty well. On the other hand, the combination of his comb-over haircut, tired-sounding dialogue and rather cheesy execution in his acting (‘Bring on the ginge!’ was particularly cringe-worthy) makes his character feel a little uncomfortable in his act. Then again, every show has its growing pains.
The supporting cast is variable in its performance. Edie’s fiancé, Craig, played by ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Tim Meadows, provides some pretty good comic relief, though he feels like a bit of a parody in his role of an online college psychology professor. If the writers are trying to portray him as awkward and cringeworthy, then they’re doing a good job.
Artemis Pebdani, playing Zorn’s office boss Linda, is pure gold. She’s sassy without being too clichéd or whiny and refuses to put up with Zorn’s shenanigans. When she confronts Zorn about cleaving a conference table in half with his sword, she tells him to channel his energy into something more productive. It’s a character-establishing moment for her and a funny scene as well, without feeling overly gagged.
Overall, I feel like ‘Son of Zorn’ has potential. Some of the jokes are hilarious; there is a scene at the end where Craig is hosing blood off the driveway that’s pretty darn funny, while others fall through or just feel awkward. The characters probably need a little more establishment before they can endear themselves to the audience, with the notable exception of Zorn, whose personality can fill all of Castle Greyskull. The idea is clever, it just needs a little more time to get on its feet. I give it three out of five brain gougers.