REVIEW: Dan Harmon’s Krapopolis Is More Mildly Amusing Than Innovative

After spending more than three years in development and receiving an order for three seasons before even a single episode aired, Dan Harmon’s Fox animated series Krapopolis has built up such a level of anticipation that anything less than a masterpiece would probably qualify as a disappointment. With that in mind, Krapopolis isn’t a masterpiece — at least judging by the three episodes available for review. But taken for what it is, the series proves to be a fun and entertaining addition to Fox’s long-running Sunday-night animation lineup alongside landmark shows like The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and Family Guy.

The first three episodes of Krapopolis lack the grand ambition of Rick and Morty, another animated Harmon creation. That doesn’t mean that Krapopolis couldn’t eventually develop a similarly intricate universe. But it’s perfectly enjoyable as a low-key comedy, albeit one full of gods and magic and monsters. It’s not as grounded as Harmon’s cult classic live-action sitcom Community, but Harmon captures relatable family dynamics in his cast of offbeat characters from the ancient world.

The title of Krapopolis refers to a newly built city in ancient Greece, an early effort to steer humanity toward a stable civilization. The visionary behind this city is Tyrannis (Richard Ayoade), the city’s self-proclaimed king and the son of the goddess Deliria (Ted Lasso‘s Hannah Waddingham) and a bizarre hybrid monster named Shlub (What We Do in the Shadows‘ Matt Berry). His parents may be mystical beings, but Tyrannis is a regular human who just wants to make a mark on the world. He’s also meek and insecure, which are not the best qualities for a king, leaving him easily overpowered by his domineering family members.

That includes his half-siblings — his musclebound sister Stupendous (Pam Murphy), whose father is a cyclops, and his weird fish-man brother Hippocampus (Duncan Trussell) whose mother is a mermaid. Stupendous is an impulsive warrior, while Hippocampus is a bit of a mad scientist, who is often shown inventing future building blocks of society, like bombs and criminal profiling. Everyone in the family is deeply skeptical of Tyrannis’ ideas about civilization, but they indulge him mostly so they can find ways his concept for a city can benefit their own interests.

As an actual goddess, Deliria is the most domineering of all, and she belittles Tyrannis’ ambitions while demanding that the residents of Krapopolis worship her and build her a temple. Harmon builds on the classical concept from Greek mythology that gods walked freely among humans, and while the people of Krapopolis are in awe of Deliria, they also have no trouble accepting that she’s decided to just hang out in their city. If they get turned into random animals every so often, it doesn’t seem to bother them too much. Krapopolis mixes actual gods and goddesses from Greek mythology, like Hermes and Poseidon, with new creations like Deliria and Broseidon, Poseidon’s nephew.

Throughout, Harmon and his team find clever ways to tweak these well-worn archetypes. The juxtaposition of modern ideas and concepts with the customs and mindset of the ancient world could get tired quickly, but Krapopolis is more sophisticated than something like The Flintstones — albeit without being above goofy jokes that simply translate modern things to pre-modern times. At the multi-city sporting event Tyrannis holds as a way to bring disparate people together, fans hold up rocks in the shape of foam fingers. It’s an obvious joke, but at the same time, it’s still reliably funny. Harmon’s strength is in finding the balance between the silly and the smart, and Krapopolis effectively maintains that balance.

Harmon has also put together an excellent voice cast for Krapopolis, with Ayoade giving Tyrannis the perfect mix of nebbishy and arrogant. He’s the ancient mythological equivalent of anepo baby, able to build his own city and declare himself king just because of who his parents are. Waddingham plays Deliria with regal charm, even as she’s condescending and rude to the lowly humans who worship her. As on What We Do in the Shadows, Berry can make pretty much anything he says sound funny, and the good-natured, perpetually horny Shlub is always amusing in his laid-back debauchery.

It’s tough to say where Krapopolis will go over the course of its three guaranteed seasons. Harmon might run out of variations on the same basic material after a few more episodes or discover something new to say with the concept. The animation from Fox’s in-house studio Bento Box is colorful if a little rote, and there’s nothing about Krapopolis that feels groundbreaking or immersive in a way that would attract the kind of fans who’ve followed Harmon’s work on Community and Rick and Morty. Still, for anyone who’s stuck with Fox’s other animated comedies for decades now, Krapopolis will provide a few solid laughs between episodes of those comfortingly familiar shows.

The first two episodes of Krapopolis premiere Sunday, September 24, following the NFL broadcast on Fox, with subsequent episodes airing Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

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