Overview (Spoilers Below):
Hamster and Gretel get superpowers from aliens while Kevin grapples.
Hamster and Gretel are tasked to defend Earth from an incoming asteroid.
Superheroes are still and will continue to be the rage nowadays. With Marvel and DC still pursuing their cinematic glories and specific shows like Harley Quinn and The Boys delivering successful mature takes on the concept, we can assume the genre won’t disappear anytime soon. So it’s no surprise that Dan Povenmire wanted to take on the superhero world himself. Enter Hamster & Gretel, Povenmire’s latest project for the Disney Channel that answers the question, “What if the fate of the world lies in the hands of a little girl and her pet hamster?”.
Povenmire made himself a household name for the House of Mouse when he gave us one of the best recent shows of the past decade, Phineas and Ferb. At least, in my opinion. He also gave us Milo Murphy’s Law, which I thought was fine, but didn’t do much to capture my attention like Povenmire’s cartoon gem. So now we have his third cartoon that seeks to appease the genre fans and capture the same amount of charm and fun as Phineas and Ferb.
Starting with its first episode, “Empower Failure” is an origin story of how Kevin’s (Michael Cimino) little sister Gretel (Meli Povenmire) and their pet hamster Hamster (Beck Bennett) gained powers from aliens. You know, because every superhero needs an origin story. Unfortunately, Kevin is left as the only person without any powers, resulting in him taking on the role of their guide. When a villain named Professor Exclamation plots to unleash his robot army on City Hall, Hamster and Gretel step up to save the day. Meanwhile, Kevin learns to accept his new role and Gretel’s responsibility as a superhero.
The second episode, “Oakey Dokey”, sees the duo dealing with an asteroid hurdling towards Earth after accidentally sending a water tower head to space. Meanwhile, Kevin struggles to get Gretel to listen to his instructions since she’s eager to solve every power with a punch. Gretel successfully punches the asteroid back into space, but a shard breaks off and destroys her favorite tree, Oakey. Rather than learning about the consequences of her actions, Gretel and Hamster fixed Oakey with their powers.
What these episodes have in common is that they both represent a kid-friendly and sort of meta take on the superhero genre. Additionally, the animation and physical humor offer a similar vibe to Povenmire’s previous works, which is usually a plus for me. Some comedic moments were fine, with the running gags being Gretel naming her punches after a specific object she’s targeting and Hamster’s brief dialogue. Others, not so much. I would also credit the voice cast for providing some entertaining voice work, especially Dan’s daughter Meli Povenmire as Gretel and Michael Cimino as Kevin.
I would consider “Empower Failure” to be the best of the two since it did a decent job introducing its concept, even though the story suffered from a few pacing issues. It also has Kevin learning that he doesn’t need powers to be a hero, as he used the Duck Boyz concert event to rescue his sister from Professor Exclamation. “Oakey Dokey” had a plot that should’ve capitalized on its message about communication and facing the consequences of one’s actions. Unfortunately, it wound up being a fundamental and lazy episode that lacks the character development needed to represent the message it’s trying to tell.
With Phineas and Ferb being Povenmire’s magnum opus, it’s becoming a bit challenging for the creator to repeat history with his follow-ups from my perspective. Hamster & Gretel may be another example of that theory based on my experience with its first two episodes. However, since this is Povenmire’s first show without Jeff “Swampy” Marsh’s involvement and the second episode’s end credit scene hints at more adventures on the way, I’m willing to hold off my overall judgment until I watch the rest of its season. “Empower Failure” and “Oakey Dokey” may not do much to get me excited for what comes next, but they do leave me hoping that the show can improve itself in the upcoming adventures featuring the world’s unusual crime-fighting team.