Manic but more focused than a lot of Adult Swim fare, “Rick and Morty” is an amusing animated construct from actor-producer Justin Roiland (who, impressively, voices both title characters) and “Community’s” Dan Harmon. Built around the adventures of a mad scientist and his shell-shocked grandson – his “little helper,” as Rick calls him – the show avoids some of the traps associated with the genre, actually telling stories beyond just the customary rat-a-tat gags and pop-culture references. In terms of the elusive sweet spot of channel-surfing young guys, it’s one of the better-realized recent Adult Swim offerings.
Feeling a bit like “Back to the Future” on acid, Rick is certainly a colorful sort, with a wild mane of hair, prone to stammering and burping and bouts of panic – sometimes all in the same sentence. His reluctant sidekick, Morty, has missed a lot of school lately, much to the chagrin of his squabbling parents (Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke).
“You gotta do it for grandpa!” Rick implores the kid, even as he drags him into one life-threatening, fantastic sci-fi situation after another in places like Dimension 35C, one of the many parallel universes to which the gadget-inventing Rick can travel.
Rick’s universe-trotting gets better in the second episode, which features an elaborate “Inception” spoof, as the central duo leap into various layers of dreams, including a “legally safe knockoff” of a certain long-fingernailed horror-movie heavy. A “B” plot, meanwhile, involves Rick gifting the family dog with speech, which yields a pretty clever assortment of unintended consequences.
As with the “Family Guy” episodes that will provide “Rick and Morty’s” lead-in, Adult Swim often seems overly reliant on simply being frenetic at the expense of being witty. While “Rick and Morty” isn’t necessarily the stuff dreams are made of, in its buoyant flights of fancy, it does betray a welcome attempt to dream just a little bigger.