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DVD Review: Green Eggs and Ham: The Complete First Season

November 30, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

First published in 1960, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham is one of the most beloved and enduring learn to read books of all time, with its irresistible rhyming scheme made up of just fifty words making it ideal for beginners, not to mention a delight to read out loud.

Following an unnamed protagonist who is being badgered by a character named Sam-I-Am to try a bite of the title dish, the book’s ability to tell a complete story with a limited vocabulary is one of the most ingenious things about it. But how do you adapt such a short story for the screen, let alone expand it to fill out a thirteen episode series?

This question has been answered and then some by Green Eggs and Ham, a shockingly good animated series from Warner Bros. Animation that premiered on Netflix last year, and is now having its first season released on DVD.

Narrated by Keegan-Michael Key, the show does an incredible job of fleshing out the story, delivering clever humour that remains true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss, as well as a surprising amount of heart. It’s this last part that took me most by surprise, with the show giving its characters genuinely emotional backstories that pack quite the punch. Trust me, Green Eggs and Ham is the real deal.

The show’s main character, Guy Am I (Michael Douglas), is a grumpy, down on his luck inventor whose inventions all seem to explode. Sam I Am (Adam DeVine) is a lonely but perpetually cheerful young chap with a taste for green eggs and ham. When their identical brown briefcases get mixed up in a diner, the two of them end up on the run together with a wild Chickaraffe, one of only seventeen of these creatures left in the world, that has been stolen from the Glurfsburg Zoo.

Guy and Sam become unlikely partners on a wild journey to reunite the creature with his family on Chickeraffe Island, and save him from an arrogant, pompadoured businessman named Snerz (Eddie Izzard) who wants to add the creature to his wall of animals. To do so they must outrun a couple of Bad Guys, McWinkle (Jeffrey Wright) and Gluntz (Jillian Bell), who are determined to get their hands on the Chickeraffe. Along the way, Guy and Sam also team up with the overprotective Michellee (Diane Keaton) and her daughter E.B. (Ilana Glazer), who’s always dreamed of having a pet and names the Chickeraffe Mr. Jenkins, and the four of them must learn to trust each other.

The title dish provides the narrative through-line of the series, with Sam ordering it every chance he gets and Guy always refusing to try it, preferring to eat bland, colourless oatmush instead. The episode titles (Here, Car, Train, Fox, etc.) correspond with words from the book, and allow Guy to deliver another line from the story in every episode. This could have easily been a gimmick, but the story that Green Eggs and Ham builds around it is surprisingly layered and compelling.

The show does an excellent job of developing its characters, and we see real growth for them across the thirteen episodes. It notably features great voice performances from its all-star cast, with Douglas and DeVine both doing an excellent job of giving the lead characters distinct personalities. The Chickeraffe is also an adorable cartoon creation that recalls Kevin in Up, a sort of cross between a chicken and a giraffe with a telescoping neck and legs that allow him to shrink down to fit inside a briefcase.

The animation, which is predominantly 2D with some 3D elements, is appealingly stylized, and really captures the look of Dr. Seuss’ original drawings with its hand-drawn backgrounds. The show’s writing is also incredibly tight, with some great twists and turns that are pulled off quite well. The episodes all end with a cliffhanger that lead us right into the next one, which makes it ideal for binge-watching.

Mixing elements of odd couple buddy comedy, road movie and escape picture, Green Eggs and Ham is a wonderfully loopy cartoon series. The book’s main theme is about challenging preconceived ideas, trying new things, and not making judgements based on appearance. It’s fitting, then, that it has been turned into a show that upends our expectations right from the start, including challenging our very idea of what a Dr. Seuss adaptation can be.

The show does an exceptional job of paying tribute to the classic rhymes and unmistakable visual look of Dr. Seuss, while also expanding his text into a wildly entertaining adventure that is elevated by its strong character development and genuine heart. It takes real imagination to get all of this out of a story that initially only featured fifty words, but Green Eggs and Ham delivers the goods. Netflix has already announced that a second season is on the way, and I can’t wait for it.

Bonus Features (DVD):

The two-disc set, which spreads the thirteen episodes over both discs, includes no bonus features.

Green Eggs and Ham: The Complete First Season is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 348 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: December 1st, 2020

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