Stuck making a living as a lounge singer on Mars, former outlaw Stingray Sam is reunited with his ol' buddy The Quasar Kid. This isn't a chance meeting though as both men have been tapped by the intergalactic government to retrieve the daughter of a famous carpenter, who is being held captive by the dastardly Fredward on one of the richest planets in the known universe. If Stingray Sam and The Quasar Kid are able to pull this off, both men will have officially paid their debt to society and finally be considered free.
Hey kids, remember when Ronny reviewed "The American Astronaut" and then later added it to his Top 99 Arthouse list? Of course you do, don't play dumb. I finally watched "The American Astronaut" myself and absolutely loved it. Loved it so much so that I immediately ordered Cory McAbee's follow up project "Stingray Sam". Another science-fiction, western, musical, comedy adventure.This time around instead of a film "Stingray Sam" is broken up into a series of chapters or episodes and is designed to be more like the film serials from the early days of cinema.
While the overall story is simply too massive to condense into a plot description, the general plot is that "Stingray Sam" follows the adventures of, well, Stingray Sam. While making his living being a lounge singer on Mars, Sam is reunited with his old friend, The Quasar Kid. Both men have been released from prison they have been called upon to rescue a little girl who is being held captive by a deranged figuredhead of one of the wealthiest planets in the system. If they are able to retrieve the girl and bring her safely back to her father, both Stingray Sam and The Quasar Kid will finally have paid their debt and be considered free men.
Even though I doubt there has ever been a serial quite like "Stingray Sam", Cory McAbee did a phenomenally entertaining job of capturing the spirit of what those series and movies were about. Even goes so far as to have each episode opening with an endorsement from the fake company Liberty Chew Chewing Tobacco -- the same company that actually appears within the "Stingray Sam" universe. It's one of those little details that adds to the fun and the charm of the series.
Of course, Cory McAbee puts his own spin on things and features the same comedic and musical style that was on display in "The American Astronaut". I'm sure by now most people are already snubbing their nose at this series because it's science fiction, a western and a musical on top of it all. And if that's what you think, well then you're an idiot and doing yourself a great disservice. With an incredible score and featuring catchy songs that swing between country and rock to the down right sweet Lullaby Song and the amusing Peg Legged Father (you can watch the ridiculous Fredward song that explains why there is planet of only men on YouTube: click here). I'm certainly no musical aficionado but it is damn near impossible not to have fun when the songs come on and have them rolling around in your head after.
About the only differences between "The American Astronaut" and "Stingray Sam" is the latter features a slicker production. Although I guess when you go from film to digital you can afford to put the money else where into the production. With that said, "Stingray Sam" still boasts some of the same style found in McAbee's previous effort only a little less dark perhaps. Through narration provided by David Hyde Pierce -- an additional element that captures that style of serials -- and stylized photos and animation, we get to see the massive world of "Stingray Sam". And I do mean massive but thankfully it never really focuses too much on the details or the backstory. The episodes focus on two unlikely types trying to pull off something that they're not really qualified to do. It should be obvious how the story is going to play out yet you still get hooked into watching Sam and Quasar trying to complete their mission.
I probably should try to go further into the technical side of "Stingray Sam" and why it works so well but I don't see that it is necessary. Not because it doesn't succeed, it does, but because it's not important. "Stingray Sam" is simply about entertainment and having fun, which it does effortlessly. Cory McAbee knows how to tell a story and how to make interesting characters but the series works because there is so much to like about it and because it is simply fun. The fact that it embodies everything that those early serials were about is impressive and then the characters are fantastic, the story (which is surprisingly big in scope) is great and actually keeps you engaged and I haven't seen such a perfect use of music since "Cannibal! The Musical". Not counting McAbee's previous effort, of course. Like I said, it's just a fun project and it is worth checking out (as well as "The American Astronaut") even if it doesn't fit to your usual preferences because you never know, you might be surprised to find that you enjoy watching the adventures of…Stingray Sam!