Lucifer’s well-meaning daughter and her entourage of wacky demon misfits create a purgatory of sorts to save Hell’s best and brightest from Heaven’s continued wrath. Hazbin Hotel tickles the funny bone as a delightfully devilish animated musical series. Creator Vivienne Medrano gained a cult fan base with her hit, independently financed YouTube pilot. Its popularity resulted in a series order from Prime Video. The F-bomb-laden episodes can best be described as a raunchy Broadway show with heart behind the vulgarity. Not all of it works, but Medrano is certainly creative and passionate.
The premiere, “Overture,” follows the pilot’s events with a brief recap of Hell’s state of affairs. Princess Charlie Morningstar (Erika Henningsen) recounts how her father, Lucifer (Jeremy Jordan), and mother Lilith, the first woman, were tossed out of heaven for their illicit romance. Lucifer’s efforts to sway Adam (Alex Brightman) and Eve with free will results in the creation of sin. His followers and Earth’s damned human souls were sent to suffer in Hell with demons. But population overcrowding in Hell leads to a yearly culling by Heaven’s brutal and unforgiving angels.
Charlie devises a plan to save Hell’s citizens from their annual slaughter. The Hazbin Hotel will serve the doomed as a safe place for redemption. After all, everyone deserves a chance to escape eternal suffering. She tries to convince her girlfriend and protector, Vaggie (Stephanie Beatriz), to help in this crazy endeavor. The Hazbin Hotel’s crude bartender, Husk (Keith David), the diminutive, psychopathic, one-eyed maid Niffty (Kimiko Glenn), and its only resident, the sex-crazed, multi-limbed Angel Dust (Blake Roman), are enlisted to create a TV commercial publicizing the hotel as an escape from slaughter. Charlie tries to convince Heaven at her first meeting, but Vaggie realizes she doesn’t have a clue how to direct a commercial. She enlists Alastor (Amir Talai), a powerful Overlord and Radio Demon, but his assistance comes with a price.
Erika Henningsen Voices Charlie
- Release Date
- January 19, 2024
- Vivienne Medrano
- A bold, audacious idea comes to life with great imagination.
- Wonderful music, performed by great Broadway stars, is a highlight.
- Creative character design and ethical ambiguity makes for a fascinating animted show.
- The series loses steam as it goes along, with a dip in energy and interest.
- The narrative structure becomes formulaic and a bit cookie-cutter.
Hazbin Hotel flips the biblical script on rigid definitions of good and evil. Hell and its demons aren’t all bad, despite their previous sinful actions. Heaven, however, is run by narcissistic and arrogant angels who revel in their merciless extermination and Hell has no defense against them. Charlie’s initial encounter with Adam, now an angel, hilariously reveals his true nature. The rub is there’s nothing divine about Hell’s oppressors. This storyline will be obviously heretical to fundamentalist Christians, so it’s not meant for them or those offended by religious-themed humor.
The animation and character depictions are weird to the max. Charlie and Vaggie look human but everyone else and the settings twist normalcy into pretzels. The demons have different abilities depending on their purview. The badass Alastor has a cat’s head and sports a wicked, toothy grin. He’s constantly challenged by other demons for various reasons, playing a key role in the overall narrative with substantial dialogue. Others, like the loony Niffty, add sight gags and reactionary commentary to the various shenanigans. Strange is an understatement, but the characters grow on you as the series progresses.
Each episode has showstopping musical numbers that highlight the voice actors’ impressive range. Erika Henningsen, who also starred as Cady Heron in Broadway’s Mean Girls, blows the roof off with her soaring vocals — it’s a pity she wasn’t cast in the new film. The expletive-laced songs get big chuckles with their naughty lyrics. Medrano’s slew of composers deserve a lion’s share of credit for the show’s success. You don’t have to like the plot to appreciate the talent on aural display.
Flipping the Biblical Script
Hazbin Hotel uses sex and perversion as its primary comedic fuel. Angel Dust, an adult film actor who is into all manner of freaky hookups, is the lusty obsession of numerous horny demons. These racy subplots garner minor laughs before running thin. Medrano’s focus on sexual liberation is clearly understood but overblown to the point of exhaustion. Thankfully, there’s no kinky animated nudity to accompany the sexual frivolity. Medrano wisely omits the skin, as that would have been a further distraction from an already visually busy narrative.
Hazbin Hotel is shot out of a cannon with an impressive start but does lose luster in later episodes. The series is never boring, it just becomes kind of predictable in tone and format. You can always guess when a song’s coming. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and may entice many viewers, but it admittedly strays into formulaic territory. Minor quibbles aside, Medrano’s audacious vision deserves recognition for originality. Hazbin Hotel, much like Harley Quinn, stands out as a woman-centered adult animated series with a different perspective. The cosplay crowd is definitely going to get a kick out of these characters.
Hazbin Hotel is a production of SpindleHorse Toons, Bento Box Entertainment, A24, and Amazon Studios. The first four of the eight-episode season are currently available exclusively on Prime Video through the link below. Check out the trailer below as well.
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