Matt Groening's new Netflix show, 'Disenchantment,' is a feminist fantasy epic. But is it funny?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Disenchantment, the new Matt Groening show on Netflix. (Image: Netflix)

Matt Groening doesn’t make TV shows very often — after The Simpsons and Futurama, he doesn’t really need to, does he? — so the arrival of Disenchantment, now streaming on Netflix, is inevitably something of an event.

Disenchantment is another animated show, set in what Netflix calls a “crumbling medieval kingdom” called Dreamland. The clothes certainly signal the Middle Ages, but the presence of a friendly elf named Elfo and a devilish demon named Luci suggest this project has much of its mind on fantasy epics like Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. The central character is Bean, a princess whose voice is provided by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson. She’s a plucky young woman who drinks too much and says things like, “I want to be in charge of my own destiny” — in other words, medieval or not, she’s the very model of an enlightened 21st-century mindset. So is much of the humor here. A typical joke will have Bean say to a stranger, “What, now you’re highwaymen?” and the response is, “Highway-people: We’re a gender-neutral kleptocracy.” Political correctness: It’s so funny!

Elfo, voiced by Nat Faxon (The Descendents), and Luci, voiced by Eric Andre (Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show), are contrasting types vying for the heart and mind of their pal Bean. Luci tries to tempt Bean to act badly, and Elfo sets a better example as an amiable elf who’s a bit dim. Groening created the series (it has a 10-episode first season, with a second one already picked up by Netflix), but its showrunner is Josh Weinstein, a Simpsons and Futurama vet who also worked on kids shows like Gravity Falls and the 2015 reboot of Danger Mouse. Disenchantment feels more kid-friendly than the other Groening shows.

Watch the trailer for Disenchantment:

It’s also structurally different from previous Groening work. Each episode averages out to a solid commercial-free half-hour, making it longer than one of Groening’s Fox-network shows, and the episodes frequently conclude with cliffhangers, to tempt you to binge the next installment. The result is often an episode that feels stretched out to suit the ongoing story arcs. I guess the idea is to take the viewer on an epic quest that’s also Bean’s inner journey of self-discovery, and those two things are jarring — they don’t really meld into a unifying whole.

Disenchantment is pretty to look at — the background illustrations are often lovely — but it’s not very funny. The producers have said the show is filled with a budding mythology and lots of Easter eggs for the fan base it hopes to build, so if you’re into that kind of detail-oriented viewing, this may be a show for you.

Disenchantment is streaming now on Netflix.

Watch: Matt Groening reveals the surprising inspiration behind Disenchantment:

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