Everything Is Awesome In “Clone High”
Kevin Noonan | Monday, February 24, 2014
Everything is awesome in the wake of “The Lego Movie,” the brilliantly hilarious animated film crushing the box office over the past two weekends. The film features a variety of celebrity voice actors, a purposefully glitchy animation style and a furious pace of endless jokes, from the obvious to the subversive. What most people don’t realize is that the film’s creators have had prior success with another hilarious YouTube series, “Clone High.”
The film’s writer-director partners, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, have made a name for themselves in Hollywood by adapting existing properties for the big screen, raising the quality of the origin and bringing surprisingly fresh twists on expectations in each of their films.
Their first film, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” in 2009 combined cartoon slapstick with insightful and quirky humor. In 2012 they followed that debut ⎯ an animated children’s movie ⎯ with a hard-R action comedy remake of a 1980s television show, “21 Jump Street.”
Combining self-mocking and tongue-in-cheek humor with outrageous physical and visual gags brought the best out of the directors and the film’s stars, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, who played the least detestable role of his career that involves no stripping.
After that no-holds-barred R-rated comedy, the pair put out “The Lego Movie,” the No. 1 movie in America for two straight weeks and hands down the funniest movie I’ve seen in the last year. If you haven’t seen it, at least one of your friends has told you that you just absolutely have to.
But the writer-directors’ smashing worldwide success in the past few years can be traced back to a cheap-looking and short-lived cartoon, “Clone High,” that aired fully only on Canada’s Teletoon network in 2001 and 2002, just eight episodes of which were broadcast on MTV in America in 2003.
The duo’s comedy sensibilities are on full display from the first seconds of the show, which establishes it as a sendup of over-dramatic high school shows like “Dawson’s Creek” and later “The O.C.” The pilot, “Escape to Beer Mountain: A Rope of Sand.” The show opens with a very-young-sounding Will Forte announcing that “this is a very special episode of ‘Clone High’” followed by the show’s theme song, an emotional, 90s pop-rock anthem that introduces the characters and central concept:
“Way, way, back in the 1980s / Secret government employees / Dug up famous guys and ladies / And made amusing genetic copies / Now the clones are sexy teens / They’re gonna make it if they try / Loving, learning, sharing, judging, / A time to laugh and shiver and / Cry / Time to watch / Clone High / Energetic and engaging, / Clone High / Our angst is entertaining, / Clone High / Our lives are never boring, / Who am I?”
The show proceeds to follow Abe Lincoln as the tall and awkward one, Joan of Arc as Abe’s overlooked female friend, Cleopatra as the girl of Abe’s dreams, John F. Kennedy as the popular jock and Gandhi as the hard-partying comic relief. On the surface, it’s a perfect parody of high school dramas with humor that hits hard and often, but it goes above and beyond easy parody jokes, making for a consistently funny, frequently brilliant comedy.
Most of the series is on YouTube and can be found with a little work. It is definitely worth watching for anyone who enjoyed “The Lego Movie” and wants to see more like it.