They should have stopped at “Part I.”
The biggest joke behind 1981’s scattershot “History of the World: Part One” was, well, do we even have to spell it out?
Still, people seemed eager to see a sequel even though “History” remains one of Mel Brooks’s lesser films. (let’s pretend “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” never happened).
Yet this critic recalls working at a VHS rental store in the ‘80s where customers insisted “Part II” not only existed but they wanted to rent it then and there.
Now, that crowd can sign up for Hulu and see the bona fide sequel – 40-plus years later. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The eight-part “History of the World Part II” boats a trio of creators with Brooks’ blessing – Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz. The comedy icon is 96 and full of vigor, still, but his ability to pick collaborators has hit a wall.
The Hulu project will be greeted by stone faces for most viewers. The collection of sketches, which bounce around the historical calendar but include several recurring tales, is clever on the surface but rarely inspired.
Laughs? Squint hard and you’ll see a few … at best.
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The first four episodes reviewed cover the life of Jesus Christ, the Russian revolution, Sigmund Freud (a modest highlight thanks to Taika Waititi) and even cavewomen discovering fire. The latter provides the most painful sketch, but it’s blissfully short.
Some bits arrive with promise – a “Good Times’” style sitcom based on the first black Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm (Sykes).
Others wallow, and we mean wallow, in potty humor without the benefit of laughter. Alexander Graham Bell getting punked by Watson is a prime example. So are WWII soldiers projectile vomiting en route to Normandy.
Kroll works overtime in multiple roles (as do Sykes and Barinholtz), but he brings the most comic zip to the series. It’s rarely in the service of smart writing, alas.
Verbal puns, meta references and other running gags abound, but they never gel into something worth our attention (AKA Funny). Even the most successful bit of the initial episodes, the life of Christ as seen via a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” parody, loses its bite after a spell.
The project’s woke bona fides hardly doom the series, but their presence suggests the creators cared more about scoring culture war points than laughs us. The show takes swipes at Florida, “white guilt,” and echoes Hulu’s factually funny “1619 Project” with this Harriet Tubman quip.
“We built most of the infrastructure of this county,” Sykes’ Tubman cries. Now, is that supposed to be funny or is it merely another woke talking point?
Standup comedian, writer and producer Nick Kroll has returned to TV as part of the cast of Hulu’s star-studded sequel to the Mel Brooks comedy, “History of the World, Part 2” https://t.co/bYNXlVIDDn pic.twitter.com/VW4h9fqdrB
— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) March 5, 2023
We also get race-swapped casting moves with figures like Jesus Christ (Jay Ellis) and Mary Magdalene (Zazie Beetz), among other figures. Having the great J.B. Smoove play a disciple alongside Kroll’s Judas is perfect, of course, given the “Curb” intentions.
Other bits, like Kumail Nanjiani pitching a Kama-Sutra project that combines sexual positions with soup recipes, is so dead on arrival it’s hard to fathom. Just be grateful it wraps up swiftly.
The series gathers so many recognizable faces, but almost none make an impression. A cast member we’re told not to share seems hemmed in as Stalin, while Pamela Adlon’s Jewish rebel is unpleasant in every scene without generating a smile.
Suffice to say no one can measure up to the original’s Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Brooks himself.
What’s unforgivable about “History of the World: Part II” is how cheap it looks. The production design resembles an ‘80s or ‘90s TV show, decades before studios pumped serious money into the format. “Part II” makes no effort to hide its tiny budget or drab direction, creating a chasm between it and the source material.
The few musical numbers cry out for a strong visual approach that never arrives.
The opening episode frantically copies Brooks’ broad, sometimes vulgar style, and it’s the most authentic part of this TV sequel.
Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine anyone sticking around for all eight installments.
The fact that it’s on Hulu instead of getting a theatrical release should tell you everything you need to know.
On that note, Mel Brooks’s latest has been a smash hit for Hulu.
“‘History of the World, Part II’ Becomes Hulu’s Most Watched Scripted Original of 2023 (Exclusive)”
Imagine referring to Jay Ellis playing Jesus Christ as a “race swapped” Jesus. Is the author gonna respond to this and explain this line? Delete the comment? Let’s see.
Please, tell us what race Jesus was.
Hebrew’s a language, dummy. Not a race.
Black, white, brown, yellow… and Hebrew. No, doesn’t belong.
The fact that you don’t understand that Hebrews / Jews are a “race” of people tells me all I need to know about you. This is is lie most commonly found in the black American community.
Oh, I see! You mean “Hebrew” as in “The Hebrews” as if the word “Hebrews” and “Jews” are interchangeable. That’s so cute, grandpa! And archaic. No serious person has used the phrase “The Hebrews” like that since the 1950s. You must be 80 years old.
Old fart terminology aside, you do seem to be an expert on both Jews and the black American community. I’m sure you have a well thought out final solution for both. Now be a good boy and put down that craniometer. LOL!!!!
Well, he was white in the first History of the World, so maybe that’s what he meant.
“Don’t get saucy with me, Béarnaise!”
for the record “Dracula dead and loving it” was hilarious McNichol stole the show
That’s what I think! Dead and Loving it wasn’t Brooks at his best but was really enjoyable and hilarious. Leslie Neilson as Dracula? How Brooks can you get?
First two episodes totally horrible unfunny garbage,brooks was good in his day,he surrounded himself with woke loser writers
C’mon, Mr. Toto.
When political and social satire works, it’s “edgy” and “counter-cultural”. When it doesn’t, it’s “woke”. This style of comedy is no different from other comedies made since before you were born, at least as far back as The Smothers Brothers, Saturday Night Live and all the comedy and improve teams of the ’70s. Comedy has scored “culture war points” for many decades now, Nothing’s changed. Blazing Saddles message of race relations was probably pretty “woke”, too. No, you don’t have to like it. But don’t pretend it’s anything new.
BTW, I say this as someone who has no interest in the new History of the World show. I don’t think anything Mel Brooks has done since the first History of the World (except for his interviews) have been funny.
Lost me at sykes.
With the exception of openly ridiculing Nazis, Mel Brooks’ had a personal agenda only to be funny and entertaining. With .any body of work over a 75 year career there will always be hits and misses, and while Melvin Kaminsky has had more than his share of both, none of which take away from his incomparable comedic brilliance. Script, cast, crew, budget can all look great until it’s on screen, and then we wondered why the hell anyone bothered to make this trash and waste good cellulose to boot. HOTW 1 was entertaining and in spots laugh out loud funny. Any project that includes Wanda Sykes is an immediate pass for me, and while I’m grateful to HULU for reposting HOTW 1 that I shall watch again, I won’t bother with 2. View at your own risk.
“We also get race-swapped casting moves with figures like Jesus Christ (Jay Ellis) and Mary Magdalene (Zazie Beetz),”
This , I suspect , is your principal objection. YOU ARE AS WORTHLESS AS A LIBERAL as a reviewer. You only see the film(s) through the lens of your political butt hurt. Your objections to “race swapping” are as stupid (IT’S A F-CKING COMEDY) as a liberal complaining about the lack of transgenders in the film.
Part 2 is somewhere between youtube sh*tpost and a lecture about the evils of caucasity. Sit through any of the skits and it is glaringly obvious that a committee wrote this. You know, the Sadim Touch Committee were everything the get their grubby little hands on turns to sh*t?
People that care about the first film will be upset, but that’s okay considering most people watching the second part either didn’t watch the first or found it “violently offensive” or some bs like that.
The “modern” audience will guzzle this like it’s their last Whiteclaw after snorting their Xanax and hormone therapy half and half. Hulu happily gets their money. The Sadim squad is happy too. After all, xheir/zheir/their goal was never about entertainment, but to leave xheir/zheir/their skidmark on the world!
I would say that Jesus, the Jew (let’s relax about the Hebrew thing for now), living in Israel, would have somewhat dark skin (close to the sun and all). He would not be Nordic, as he is chiefly portrayed in movies, paintings, and other art.
That being left for you barracudas to squabble over, I never really liked Part I. Brooks was interviewed several years ago and was asked about Part II. Brooks explained that that was part of the joke.
And, as I didn’t really like the first one, I wasn’t pumped for the second one. Hearing the cast choices (Sykes? Ugh! One un-funny birthing person), I wasn’t raring to go on this series. I might watch the first episode, but I’m in now rush.
For Brooks oeuvre, I have Frankenstein & Saddles tied for #1 and Spaceballs at #2. The rest is hit or miss for me.
Hebrew or Jewish is no more a race that Catholic.
History of the World part 2 is an insult to Mel Brooks. I expected more from those ‘writers’. If this is modern comedy, we’re in a lot of trouble.