MORAL OREL, VOL. 1, THE UNHOLY EDITION – DVD review

What can one say about Dino Stamatopoulos’ “Moral Orel”? As a claymation kid, he’s a mixed up, confused, little do-gooder trying his best to please God. As a TV show “Moral Orel” is a twisted, sometimes funny, often disgusting, always offensive, antagonist trying its best to piss off the moral majority. I can’t say anyone can love it, but a few sure can like and admire much of it.

As a cartoon in the nightly Adult Swim rotation on the Cartoon Network, it does a number of things to stand out by fitting in. If you don’t know anything about the Adult Swim programming, here is a crash course. Weekdays and Sunday nights when the kids go to bed, the high schoolers, college kids, and young adults turn on the Cartoon Network to enjoy TVs best irreverent, stupid, and cheaply made cartoons: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” reruns of “Family Guy,” reruns of “Futurama,” “Squidbillies,” “Venture Bros.,” and so on.

Inhabiting these cartoons are such creatures as a living milkshake that when not trying to make money is trying to kill his roommate a disgusting meatball, a family of alcohol and meth addicted backwoods squids, an insane scientist who has two test tube sons, and other assorted sleazy and violent characters. In the worlds of these cartoons there is excessive cartoon violence played for comedy and messy and awkward sexuality played for uncomfortable laughs, all wrapped loosely in never canny always inane storylines.

“Moral Orel” fits this irreverent formula. The claymation of the cartoon is fairly basic, not too flashy. Moral Orel, his family, his friends, his world are all basic clay forms with muted colors. I can’t say it is a cheaply made cartoon (Because I don’t know for sure.), but the design seems specifically intended to have that basic stop motion animation look. The simplicity of the animation and other aspects like the voice over are all apart of a packaged designed to accentuate the story. The varying stories of each episode are the real prizes.

Moral Orel’s world is a small town where a protestant form of Christianity rules the school, the police, the library and everyone’s personal values. Moral Orel’s mother is a classic fifties housewife addicted to the scent of cleaning sprays and fluids. His father is a beaten down middle aged man with a penchant for whipping his son and an ambiguously homosexual relationship with the elementary school gym teacher. And poor Moral Orel’s little brother is the product of an extramarital affair his mother had with the elementary school gym teacher. There is not a savory character among them, including the Rev. Putty, who is a sex obsessed, woman hating, man of God.

Every episode, with the exception of the Christmas special, has a basic premise—Moral Oral first misunderstands some part of the scripture, Rev. Putty’s sermon, or religious saying, then he goes about practicing his misunderstanding with religious fervor. The religious fervor part is always the running joke of the program. Some of these running jokes include masturbating into sleeping women’s vaginas, drinking urine, desecrating graves, and boycotting naturally conceived chicken eggs.

Here are the episodes where Stamatopoulos and company’s “Moral Orel” scores and scores big.

“God’s Chef”—Episode 2—This may be the best episode in the bunch. It is incredibly offensive, insensitive, and down right disgusting. Moral Orel, instead of wasting his sperm through the act of masturbation, sneaks in to neighborhood women’s bedrooms at night and masturbates into a baster and injects it into their vaginas. If you love Cartoon Network programming this is your episode.

“Charity”—Episode 3—Finds Moral Orel trying to make a little money and contributing to charity only to get hooked on crack cocaine. Seeing little Orel all strung out will release in you a very disturbing chuckle.

“Waste”—Episode 4—Moral Orel learns from his scout leader that if lost in the woods he should drink his own urine to survive. He is also told that urine is a much needed source of energy. Moral Orel shortly after this learns that God says he should not waste anything. With this in mind Moral Oral begins drinking his own urine as if it were an energy drink. Hilarity ensues, and this episode is one of the best.

“Maturity”—Episode 9—This episode finds Moral Orel sneaking drinks from his father’s liquor closet (Maturity Juice). Like when Orel was strung out on crack, this episode is funniest when it shows Orel acting like a broken down old drunk.

“The Best Christmas Ever”—Episode 10—This was the most hyped cartoon on Cartoon Network for a long time. It was setup to play as a very special maybe even cheerful Christmas episode, it is not. It is a fairly unfunny disturbing piece that ends with a very ambiguous final scene. I don’t want to give too much away but as a change of pace from the other episodes it succeeds. It turns Moral Orel’s whole existence from absurdly funny to absurdly tragic.

Video:
Nothing to fancy here. The programs are presented in a standard format. You’ll see them the way they were presented on TV. The overall look is pretty good. The colors and crispness of the picture are better than they were when I first saw them on the Cartoon Network.
Audio:
The audio is fantastic. Every element of it works very well. The soundtrack is a clean and clear Dolby Digital 2.0. I have to say the selection of music for play on the menu are nice tunes and there are enough of them to keep you from growing annoyed at the usual repetitive jingles on most DVDs.
Extras:
The extras section of the DVD is surprisingly not lame. I actually enjoyed the panel discussion. The episode commentaries are somewhat redundant, but you get a few nice tidbits. The other featurettes are also nice. They give you a look into how the claymation is filmed and the zaniness of the behind the scenes at the Cartoon Network.
Entertainment Value:
There are fifteen fifteen minute episodes in this DVD set. The best ones are the most outrageous. The worst ones are the most heavy handed. A good number are indeed overzealous in their message and their attacks on conservative ideology. This program is not for everyone; in fact it may only be for a small niche. It certainly is a TV show worth a look.

Reply