Allen Gregory is one pretentious, precious, mean-spirited seven-year-old. If only he were actually funny.
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The central character of FOX’s new animated series “Allen Gregory,” created and voiced by Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), the insipid pint-sized intellectual is the only seven-year-old boy ever created with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
Right off the bat, he’s established as an incredibly cultured crybaby. From his overtly ostentatious speech to a hissy fit on the balcony, the character is just plain awful. In said balcony scene, Allen Gregory’s father, Richard (French Stewart, “3rd Rock from the Sun”) and Richard’s partner Jeremy (Nat Faxon, “Bad Teacher”) say they have some bad news for Allen Gregory. In which Allen Gregory replies, “Jeremy has AIDS? Full-blownsies?” A crucial mistake for the writers — if you’re going to tell an AIDS joke, it better be gut-wrenchingly hilarious.
In fact, Jeremy doesn’t have AIDS, but he does have to get a job. Meaning Allen Gregory is stuck going to public school with the rest of the masses. The tiny genius only gets worse when forced to interact with the elementary school heathens, strutting around obnoxiously and having awkward fantasies about his over-60-year-old principal. And when he’s not doing any of that, he’s verbally abusing his adopted Cambodian sister Julie (Joy Osmanski, “Fired Up”). Shockingly, none of it is amusing.
Allen Gregory’s character is simply too off-beat and overtly annoying to be likable in any way. The attempts to make him seem sympathetic fail gloriously, as he is such a spoiled prick that his inability to fit in with other kids seems richly deserved.
What the audience is left with, after each joke falls comically flat, is an overarching sense of cruelty. The constant dismissal of Julie, especially by her adoptive father, who maintains that he and his partner adopted her to save her from being “turned to glue over there,” provides neither satire nor humor — and all the while is overtly and unnecessarily racist.
The same uncomfortable criticism is heaped on Jeremy, who is continuously degraded by both Richard and Allen Gregory. When, halfway through the episode, it’s revealed that Jeremy is probably a closeted straight man, the irony doesn’t even register. It’s too difficult to work past the constant victimization of the character. And so much for Allen Gregory being raised by Richard and his partner Jeremy — as the episode progresses, it’s more like Richard and his sexual victim Jeremy instead. Charming.
“Allen Gregory” is offensive to its core, whether rooted in the contrived dialogue or the pompous, egocentric main character. Beyond that, it’s just boring. While the art-deco stylized animation is well executed and the secondary characters aren’t bad, there’s no reason to waste a half-hour on those factors alone.
Unless the series can figure out what exactly it’s trying to do, it won’t have a snowball’s chance of overcoming such absurdly executed — not to mention poorly written — dialogue. The show isn’t saying anything, and it’s certainly isn’t employing any amount of humor with which to say it. With a vast amount of better options available, “Allen Gregory” just isn’t worth the time.