Based on the comic strip of the same name, Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks takes the premise of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and doses it with South Park's irreverent, obscene sense of humour. Huey Freeman, along with his brother Riley, move from inner city Chicago to the affluent suburb of Woodcrest under the watchful eye of their grandfather. Once settled in their new surroundings, they encounter an endless series of hysterical, unreasonable adults who's escapades Riley and Granddad are easily suckered into. Huey serves as an author avatar for McGruder, passing wry judgements on the preposterous activities of his family and friends.
Though occasionally a little too preachy for my liking, The Boondocks skewers aspects of African-American culture that other shows would be too scared to approach. The Boondocks has by far some of the best and not coincidentally the most shocking dialogue I've heard in a very long time. Much of these gloriously profane lines are delivered by my favourite character, Uncle Ruckus. Ruckus isn't merely a parody of a self-hating black man, he's the unrepentant primordial form of that stereotype. His racist tirades go to such extremes that on occasion, they go full circle and reach a kind of disturbing truth about certain elements of African-American pop culture. He's far from being easy on the ears if you're sensitive to that sort of humour but the intricacy of his masterfully crafted lines has to be heard to be understood.
When discussing The Boondocks it would be easy to get lost in a long-winded discussion of race relations in modern America but that would do the show a disservice. Beyond being satirical it's also lovingly animated, particularly in the second and third seasons when the shows success allowed it to include animation by famed Japanese studio Madhouse. Huey Freeman isn't just a radical, left-wing activist, he's also a master of kung-fu and his kinetic, exaggerated fight scenes showcase his skills. Huey's ability to be freakin' adorable whilst he's pulling off his moves is a testament to the character design and animation quality at play.
Like a master-crafted machine, every element of The Boondocks pulls together to produce a fantastic show. The voice actors deserve particular credit, giving life and emotional depth to the characters. Huey's quiet contemplative tone and Riley's brash, thuggish attitude are both the product of Regina King's versatility. When I watched the DVD extras and saw her switch from one voice to the other on the fly, I knew I was watching someone with unquestionable talent. Though her a-game is the best of the bunch, the rest of the cast put in sterling performances that make it impossible to imagine another actor in their roles.
The Boondocks is a beautiful, occasionally touching and consistently hilarious cartoon. My only caveat is that, particularly in the case of Huey Freeman, the show's overt displays of its political leanings could put some people off. Huey is eerily reminiscent of South Park's Stan, a character as capable of profound insight as he is of brow-beating ideological rants. You may not agree with everything this show has to says but it still needs to be heard and even the most heavy-handed of themes will still give the shows real strength, it's characters, space to shine.