Son of Zorn on Fox

Son of Zorn on Fox

/ Variety

At its heart, “Son of Zorn” is a classic fish-out-of-water tale; Zorn is a heroic, but not terribly smart warrior from the kind of cartoon kingdom familiar to viewers of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” or its spinoff, “She-Ra: Princess of Power.” Feeling the pull of family and a need to reconnect with his teenage son, Zorn leaves a blood-spattered life in the mythical kingdom of Zephyria and heads to the real world, where he essentially is the star of a conventional sitcom about an old-school dad flummoxed by the modern world and its kale-ginger smoothies.

Jason Sudeikis, who voices Zorn, injects the right amounts of gravity, heedlessness, and befuddlement into the character, whose inability to remember or respect social norms — like, say, wearing pants — inspires many of the show’s jokes. Given that Zorn is a Filmation-style animated hero whose range of facial expressions is somewhat limited, the rest of the cast supply both comedic nuance and a layer of emotional depth. Zorn is prone to extreme behavior and is also an enormously tall animated character, and the experienced cast wisely does not try to compete with his flamboyance. Instead, they find the dry and droll moments in every scene, and underplay their reactions to the combination of ignorance, petulance, and energetic optimism Zorn brings to most situations.

Johnny Pemberton, who plays Alan, does a fine job of giving believable dimensions to a son who is continually embarrassed by his father but also curious to see whether his dad will be able to make up for his decade-long absence. Cheryl Hines and Tim Meadows are mainly asked to be exasperated and emasculated, respectively, but both are skilled at making absurd situations both funny and emotionally grounded.

Zorn is, on some level, a hybrid of several different kinds of live-action and animated shows that have worked well for Fox in the past couple of decades. But thanks to the generally solid splicing and blending on display, there’s no reason to think that this combination package won’t, like its hero, find a way to fit into its surroundings.

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