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DVD Review: Sam & Max: Freelance Police – The Complete Animated Series

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Frenetic, fun, and terribly fast-paced, Sam & Max: Freelance Police – The Complete Animated Series has landed on DVD. Based on the Sam & Max comic book, the short-lived series follows the ludicrous adventures of Sam (a dog) and his good friend Max (a bunny-like thing) as they thwart all sorts of nonsensical crime.

Created by Steve Purcell, the cartoon characters are, more or less, detectives and do everything from venturing to other planets to raising alligators. A typical episode of the series will feature two shorter stories revolving around the detectives and their exploits. However, trying to explain, in detail, what a "typical" episode might feature is a rather difficult undertaking. The show jumps wildly all over the map (literally) and the actions of our detectives can best be described as supremely odd.

Sam and Max recognize themselves to be in a cartoon and to continually be doing weird, weird things, like having to consume a TV dinner that has gone bad, constructed an alternate dimension in a freezer, and has been sucking unsuspecting refrigerator repairmen into it. No, really, that's the first episode in the series, that's the introduction to the characters (for those who hadn't read the various comics they've appeared in or played the LucasArts game).

Future episodes are no less outlandish, but they are all equally hilarious. The show follows very little rhyme or reason or internal logic, but manages to, at every turn, be hugely funny. Sam and Max are entirely (almost) self-aware, they know that they are cartoon characters, that their cases are unusual, and that their solutions are equally… original.

It is precisely this irreverence, the penchant for non sequiturs, and the fact that the stories all somehow hold together that make Sam & Max: Freelance Police such an incredibly enjoyable experience. The animation isn't dazzling, the audio doesn't wow the viewer, but the oddness of it all makes it inimitably watchable.

The DVD set comes with the approximately five hours worth of the show as well as a bonus disc. Said disc contains several animated shorts, a series bible, a demo of a new Sam & Max game, and an interview with Purcell.

Though kids may be able to garner some amusement from Sam & Max, the series is not wholly geared towards them. There are enough jokes, notions, and references in it that will appeal to a more adult crowd (or, if not adult, somewhat older). Additionally, the wanton destruction and violence, while never realistic, may lead parents to reconsider showing it to younger viewers. Many adults, however, will find it endlessly amusing.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.