The Cuphead Show Review
Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
“The Cuphead Show” follows the many wacky misadventures of the titular Cuphead and his brother Mugman – residing in the Inkwell Isles. One day, while slacking off on their chores, the duo stumble upon a carnival run by the Devil using it as a means to collect souls. After losing a game of skeeball, Cuphead is now on the run. But who says he can’t still have a little bit of fun on the side?
“The Cuphead Show” is an animated adaptation of the popular indie run-and-gun video game Cuphead, which was released in 2017. Thanks to the game’s unique retro style, animation, brutal difficulty, music and gameplay, Cuphead gained widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. Due to its popularity, it was a no-brainer for Netflix to pick it up for a cartoon adaptation. However, that wasn’t without some doubt and worry that the show might not exceed everyone's expectations. Thankfully, the juggernaut streaming service managed to not only stay true to the original source material but also enriched it in a few spots.
It is also worth noting that “The Cuphead Show” is an animated series that doesn't stick to one canon story unlike most shows from Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. Some episodes feature standalone stories, like Cuphead and Mughead caring for an abandoned baby milk bottle or infiltrating a nightclub run by a pair of boxing frogs for some ice cream. Then again, this move might be done intentionally. Cuphead is an obvious inspiration from the rubber hose period of the golden age of American animation (1928-1969), and most cartoons of that period never had any storylines lasting longer than a single animated short. These episodes are around 15 minutes long.
The most appealing part of the show is seeing Cuphead (Tru Valentino) and Mugman (Frank Todaro) get roped into crazy scenarios and their reactions to it. Those make for some of the finest moments of the whole show, bringing us back to the cartoons of the 1990s and early 2000s, such as Ren and Stimpy, Spongebob Square Pants, and Rocko’s Modern Life with their outrageous slapstick.
Much like the 2017 video game, “The Cuphead Show” has a host of hilarious and loveable characters. Cuphead is a fun-loving, headstrong kid who seeks adventure and excitement while his wary brother Mugman does his best to keep him in the straight and narrow, with less than successful results. Cuphead irked me on many occasions thanks to his pig headedness always getting him in some kind of trouble. And yet he always finds a way to endear me to him in the end. Of course, it’s not just the brotherly duo holding the show together with their silly antics.
The Devil (Luke Millington-Drake) takes center stage and he is as affably evil as they come. In fact, his introduction has him singing gleefully about how he loves collecting souls and causing woe for the people of the Inkwell Isles. Whether he’s shamelessly creating destruction in his wake or throwing tantrums like a temperamental child, every scene with him is entertainment gold on screen.
“The Cuphead Show” is a lighthearted, harmless and colorful treat to watch, as it captures the charm of the golden age of slapstick cartoons that is often overlooked nowadays. If the frustration-inducing video game has given you a hard time, perhaps the cartoon adaptation will give you another reason to appreciate Cuphead even more. “The Cuphead Show” was released worldwide on February 18 and is currently streaming on Netflix. Season two will be premiering sometime in summer this year.