What would Spider-Man look like as strained through the juvenile, rapid-fire-joke filter of "Family Guy?" Disney XD's "Ultimate Spider-Man," unfortunately, seeks to find out.
Paired with the animated "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" and premiering April 1 — all rather transparently to help cash in on, and beat the drums for, the upcoming Avengers live-action movie — "Ultimate Spider-Man" has an odd, borscht-belt comedy quality to it, while pairing Spidey with teen versions of several established second-tier Marvel heroes (Power Man, Iron Fist, White Tiger, Nova), creating a sort-of alternative to DC's "Teen Titans."
If only they were that interesting. Instead, the group — assembled by S.H.I.E.L.D., with Chi McBride providing the voice of Nick Fury — spends a lot of its time bickering during the premiere. Granted, such squabbling is a Marvel staple, but here it plays like a bad episode of one of Disney XD's live-action efforts aimed at tween boys.
The studio and channel are being shrewd about using Disney XD as a platform to showcase animated versions of Marvel characters, just as DC/Warner Bros. has done on Cartoon Network. Still, this high-profile misfire with "Spider-Man," creatively speaking, doesn't bode well for Marvel's efforts to straddle the line of catering to kids without dumbing down venerable properties that plenty of adults know and love.
Admittedly, that's a difficult challenge, but by that measure "Ultimate Spider-Man" is both a nice-looking swing and a pretty clear miss.
And as George of the Jungle used to say, watch out for that tree.