This past Friday, Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation dropped their latest adult comedy cartoon: “Agent Elvis.” From the writers who brought us “Archer,” arguably one of the most influential adult cartoons of the last 20 years, this comedy follows Elvis Presley as he hangs up his guitar in exchange for becoming a secret agent. If this sounds absolutely ridiculous, it’s because it is. Just because something is silly doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.
One of the most stand-out things about this show is how fully stacked the cast is. This isn’t your typical B-list of voice actors that we recognize from some of our favorite cartoons — these are actually A-list stars. Priscilla Presley, Matthew McConaughey, Johnny Knoxville, Don Cheadle and Tom Kenny all make appearances. The knockout cast isn’t the only thing that’s surprisingly high quality about this production. The animation is smooth and detailed with Sony pulling out all the stops. While this may not be on par with the quality of something like “Into the Spider-Verse,” it’s not as low budget as I would’ve initially expected.
Can an oddly stylish comedy about a crime-fighting Elvis hold up? Surprisingly, yes. The show is a lot like a typical action flick from the early 1970s with a lot of pizzazz and references thrown in. It’s clear that the inspiration for a lot of the characters comes from real-life figures. References to Dean Martin with a .38 pistol and infamous cult leader Charles Manson manage to ground the story in the 1960s.
The punch lines are witty, but the writing can come across as a little sloppy sometimes, with a majority of the comedy relying on visual humor. The chimpanzee and right-hand man to Elvis, Scatter, carries a lot of the comedic weight in the show. If you find it surprising that a cocaine-snorting, womanizing, pistol-toting chimp in diapers is the funniest thing about the show, I gotta say I’m a little disappointed in you. Especially because the real surprise about the primate personification of every rich man’s vices is that it’s voiced by Tom Kenny. Yes, the same Tom Kenny who’s the voice behind SpongeBob.
However, this ridiculous yet deadpan humor is welcomed in a world where everything is practically designed to be ADHD fuel. CeCe Ryder, voiced by Kaitlin Olson, also brings a scatterbrained charm to the show, acting as a foil to the ever-so-dramatic persona of our protagonist Elvis. Along with the impressive supporting cast, we see across episodes a well-written — if a little cliche — story unfold.
The issue with the show for me was that Elvis takes everything a little too seriously. The slow, low-toned, raspy Southern accent put on by Matthew McConaughey got tiring after a while. In comparison to other action comedies, like “Black Dynamite” or even “Archer,” Elvis lacks the charm that makes a protagonist likable, much less relatable. Every line seems like it’s being drowned in melodrama, but even “Black Dynamite” was able to capture that same sort of ridiculous yet self-serious tone with a lot more finesse. Had McConaughey injected a little more variation into the character, I probably wouldn’t have been fatigued after the first episode.
“Agent Elvis” brings something to the table that I haven’t seen in a long time. For once, adult comedy isn’t lazily directed or animated and it certainly doesn’t have alleged abuser Justin Roiland’s grubby hands all over it. And there are also no traces of Seth Rogen, which thank God because I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle 45 low-brow sex jokes in an episode. “Agent Elvis” feels less like a comedy and more like an art project put together by a group of comedians. Visually stylish enough to appeal to your eyeballs, but lacking the humor and charm that makes you double over laughing.