“The Story of the World, Part 2” Review: The Hulu TV show is a messy sequel

Hulu’s eight-episode sequel to the 1981 film features both an impressive collection of talent and mixed results.

The best joke in “History of the World, Part I” is tablets. Moses descending from the mountain top carrying 15 commandments only to drop one of the three in his arms is as simple and elegant as it gets. It’s in Mel Brooks’ delivery, but also in the way the punchline plays in every area. Any era, from Vaudeville to Vine, is equally named after this laugh.

Arguably the second best joke in “History of the World, Part I” is the quick epilogue, which smashes together bits of ideas as a test case for what a possible sequel might look like. The stuff tacked onto the end of the 1981 film is weirder, more abstract, and yes, shorter. For decades, the fact that the “2. part” never came, he just made it funnier in his own way.

42 years later, the new Hulu series “History of the World, Part 2” is the fulfillment of that promise. It comes as an eight-episode season, with many of the same features as its predecessors. There’s a lot about the Mel Brooks movie that works that the intervening years have rendered impotent (and in some cases actively counterproductive). This is the season-long “2. part’ comes with a history textbook-like fitting mixed bag: a decently entertaining but inconsistent mix of laughs and eye-rolls.

If you’re going to pick someone who’s in a sketchy sequel, you could do a lot worse than Nick Kroll, who has both the resume and the level of commitment to not completely succeed on a show like this. wheel track. Around him is a solid comedy cross-section, an ensemble of faces too long to list, familiar to anyone with an HBO Max subscription or even a cursory knowledge of UCB’s history. The show’s secret hook is in its casting, from the nobodies (Timothy Simons as Abraham Lincoln makes almost too much sense) to the wild cards (Danny DeVito as Tsar Nicholas II) to the “give them more screen time, please” (anyone) the show in the ship of his D-Day sketch).

Brooks takes over narration duties from Orson Welles, calling the headlines for everything from “The Jesus Story” to “The Fall of the Berlin Wall.” Along with the man himself, the biggest connection between the original and the sequel is that it works almost exclusively in short spurts. In the eight episodes of Runway , there are a handful of segments that stretch far longer than the material can sustain. Even though longer collections like Russian Revolution have a handful of solid laughs, they’re not enough to justify coming back to it again and again.

History of the world, II.  Episode - Episode 103 - Alexander Graham Bells Makes (and Receives) a Call;  Schmuck Mudman enters the Politburo;  Sigmund Freud teaches psychoanalysis.  Featuring Private Mason Dixon (Tyler James Williams), Private Mingoes (Zahn McClarnon) and Lt. Henry Honeybeard (Tim Baltz).  (Photo: Greg Gayne/Hulu)

“History of the world, II. part”

Greg Gayne/Hulu

THE 2. part” is an excellent group of writers and performers who really shine when given the opportunity to play to their strengths. As buoyant as Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War parts are, this gives him a chance to sneak in one of the clear highlights of the season: Abbott Elementary star Tyler James Williams’ surprising three-way showdown. the always reliable Zahn McClarnon and the mainstay of the improv circles Tim Baltz. The trio’s energy doesn’t depend on a cheap reference or pushing someone from the past into modern technology. With the character of Baltz, McClarnon and Williams can show their bona fides and achieve a level of silliness that their other significant roles don’t always provide.

Whether it’s design or execution, “History of the World, Part 2” isn’t really made for revisiting. There may be odd details that pop out of the background on a second or third viewing, but this is a collection of sketches that should be digested in one gulp. And it’s not in the over-the-top sense (watching all eight episodes back-to-back just makes you more aware of how thin and samey these setups are), but in the sense that many of these ideas still resonate. like rough drafts or brainstorming. “History of the World, Part 2” is theoretically where Ronny Chieng and Jake Johnson could go head-to-head as Genghis Khan and Marco Polo, but that’s where a lot of those possibilities begin and end. There’s a difference between pure comedy and comedy that’s designed to be fully understood and discarded after one use. “History of the World, Part 2” often falls into the latter category, existing rather than adding anything new.

One thing that’s completely outside of this show is that it exists in the shadow of “Drunk History,” which is a “What if some of the funniest people ever played famous historical figures?” its not so distant version. This show thrived on a spontaneity that “History of the World, Part 2” rarely manages to display. THE 2. part” is so locked into parodies and fake advertising that most of these sketches are just a few minutes of follow-up to the “what if x, but y” basic premise that the internet is already a click or two away. . They’re Instagram Story-style, quick pop culture hits that almost feel like they’ll disappear before any potential Season 2 hits. (There are a handful of quick bites that feature Galileo on the 400-year-old version of TikTok. It never goes beyond that basic idea.)

And you know what? OK. There are too many talented comedians here to call the floor embarrassingly low. If the show gets more people watching “Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed,” that’s a positive. If this gives Jay Ellis and Zazie Beetz more chances to be funny, that’s ultimately a good thing. The “History of the World, II. part” has some tablet-like moments (just wait for Richard Kind to show up). The problem is, mentioning any of them here would rob the show of its fun. A long-awaited sequel with so much scope to rewrite history should have more reasons to celebrate.

Grade: C+

“The Story of the World, Part 2” will premiere two new episodes every day on Hulu until March 9.

Register: Stay up to date with the latest movie and TV news! Subscribe to our email newsletter here.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *