One of the future plans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was that they eventually would be allowed to poke fun at more mainstream films. Considering the probability they wouldn’t get the approval, nor afford the cost to obtain the rights to use the footage of most films, this plan was never put forward. IFC’s Greg The Bunny works around this problem by taking select scenes from mainstream films and remaking them around with puppets.
Greg The Bunny: The Best Of The Film Parodies covers 14 selected episodes from the IFC version of the series (Fox made a version which lasted one season). I have no way of determining which episode is from what season as these were all shot years apart (some in 1999, while others were shot a few years later). Despite the complicated history, the box set easily readies the newcomers into the wackiness they will endure when they press play.
The series tells the tale of The Greg The Bunny Show, a show within the series that airs on IFC (in the show’s alternate universe) which makes movie parodies with puppets rather than human begins. Because this series is a show behind the show set-up, we get to see the puppets themselves when the cameras go off.
Rounding out the puppet cast is the innocent Greg Bunny, edgy Warren “The Ape” Demontague, and the spooky but surly Count Blah (all voiced by one of the creators/producers/directors of the series, Dan Milano). Spencer Chinoy (also co-creator/producer/director of the series) co-stars in the series as the off-camera human producer/mediator of the puppets.
Other puppets and humans who appear in the chosen episodes are Pal Friendlies (who acts as Warren’s agent) and The Wumpus (a wacky sidekick to the madness). Seth Green also makes a guest appearance on the show playing a friend to Greg (he did the same as a fictional character in the Fox version). Eugene Levy, who was in the Fox version of the series, didn’t make it to the IFC version. That’s too bad considering he’s a good actor, but not everyone can wait as long for a cult series to return.
For newcomers, some of the films the show takes on would seem very familiar (2001, Natural Born Killers, The Godfather). What might cause some frustration are the movies they possibly haven’t seen (Auto Focus, The Addiction, Eraserhead). The easiest recommendation I can give is that you watch the episodes based on the more familiar movies – then if you like the show, go with the less familiar ones.
Since I understand this type of show by being a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I can tell you what does and doesn’t work. First, I’ll start with what doesn’t work.
On MST3k, the wobbly ground often came when Joel (or Mike depending on when you watched the series) and the robots (Servo and Crow) came out of the theater. You could tell that they were killing time with just about anything they could think of until they had to go back into the theater. The same goes for GTB, except that sometimes the dialogue between the characters is funnier. The trouble is that sometimes the behind-the-scenes drama gets in the way from the actual movie parody the episode is supposed to be doing. Just like MST3k, Greg The Bunny gets moving only when they actually do a full-on movie parody.
The best episode out of the bunch is “Space and Stuff,” which tackles 2001: A Space Odyssey. Done on a much lower budget, the episode magically captures some of the very production values used in the original. Not only that, the script mocks some of the pensive dialogue that was a trademark of the movie.
A perfect scene comes at the beginning as Warren and Greg look out the window. In the commentary for the episode, there is a bit of worry and panic about the inability to pull off the effects and props for the film on a lower budget. Like me, they come to realize that despite the lack of a bigger budget, their considerable talent combined puts together an excellent episode. The same can be said for “Bunnie Hall,” which is a parody of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
The commentators for the show include Dan Milano, Spencer Chinoy, and Sean Baker as well as Seth Green. Some of the characters for the series share some words in a couple of episodes, which doesn’t take away from the insight and humor you get from these individuals. I do warn you, the commentary for “The Godpappy” episode may or may not have been recorded with an actual fight in mind (it happens for the first few minutes) – don’t take my word for it.
Also included are a couple of featurettes which seem to act as individual episodes (one deals with the "Dead Puppet Storage" episode, and another is focused mostly on "Puppet Agent Pal Friendlies").There’s also the usual deleted scenes and a gag reel, as well as some still galleries.
As I stated earlier, the best way to enjoy this box set is to watch the episodes that have the most familiar movie that you can remember (the back of the DVD has a list of the episodes and the respective movies they parody). Once you’ve gotten through those and get the general gist of the series, you can move on to the less familiar films with a better understanding of the format.