The Likeaballs: Kick Off! Review
"Jumpers for goalposts...hmmm?" Well space suits, moon boots or something similarly spacey in this DVD of five episodes of the cartoon adventures of the Likeaballs, football shaped aliens who will play soccer against anyone, anywhere and by a somewhat flexible set of rules, anyhow. Not that far from Manchester United, then, who are gifted the kind of we'll-keep-playing-'til-you-score quantity of extra time that has been denied every other team since cavemen first kicked an inflated dinosaur's stomach around the prehistoric playing fields.
Quite like the old Hotshot Hamish comic strip, albeit replacing the comedy footballers of Princes Park with an assortment of spherical aliens, the Likeaballs appear to be locked in cosmic combat with the Dislikeaballs. However, rather that fight to the death as do normal aliens, the Dislikeaballs, led by Count Horriball, skulk about the far reaches of stadia planning footballing contests against the superior playing skills of the Likeaballs. Unfortunately for the Dislikeaballs, they have none of the teamwork of their much nicer counterparts and while they bicker between one another, the Likeaballs (and fans) tear down the goalposts of their opposing teams and take them home on the galactic equivalent of the inter-city football specials.
The five episodes here, each of which last for a little under ten minutes, begin with Likeaballs playing against slimy aliens while fighting Invinciball's tendency not to pass to his team-mates (Slimey). However, rather than roasting a young lady in an after hours party as a means to get away from his on-the-pitch troubles, Invinciball uses his Shield of Criticism to deflect Kickaball's complaints into space where they collide with the Dislikeaballs' spaceship. Next, they play against a team of dour and literally stony-faced rock-based lifeforms called the Grannits while Laughaball worries that he's lost his gift of comedy. The two threads of this story are connected together sooner than one might thread a needle.
Continuing this trend of naming episodes after the opposing teams, Monopod sets a team of odd aliens against the Dislikeaballs. However, the odds are stacked against the Monopods as each player has only one eye, one leg and no arms. Years of losing has left it ingrained in their culture and they're well used to being 147-0 down by the final whistle. Happily, though, the Likeaballs come to the aid of the Monopods and turn around a lifetime of coming second best. Meanwhile, a game of football in a forest against some savage Bears is complicated when the Dislikeaballs sends a vicious robot against the Likeaballs. Finally, in Cows, the Likeaballs are tricked into becoming lost before their next game only to find that the Dislikeaballs are disguised themselves as Kickaball, Laughaball, Adoreable, Knowledgeaball, Fashionaball and the rest and are losing. Some cows come to their rescue!
In the midst of all this action are the sportscasters Dan and Pam, who are something of a Greek chorus in each episode, explaining the more complicated ideas to young children while also flirting with one another and, in Slimey, having a bad-tempered falling-out. However, Pam and Dan probably complicate matters more than they simplify them and with so many characters, The Likeaballs lacks the straightforward storytelling of Tommy Zoom. Pre-schoolers will find things a bit confusing as they struggle to follow the action - my three-year-old only really got excited when it sounded as though someone had farted - while older children will describe the animation as being somewhat simple. However, younger boys will doubtless find the football and science fiction more interesting than might girls and while it's not one of the better cartoons on CBBC/CBeebies, it's certainly bright enough and with so much going on that it will easily find an audience.
Presented in 1.78:1, The Likeaballs was originally shown on CBBC and while it's not a BBC Childrens/2 Entertain release, it is still a reasonable, closest to the BBC's Tommy Zoom in terms of animation with similarly sharp edges to its chunky design. However, simply animated though The Likeaballs is, the DVD presentation is bright, colourful and welcoming and while younger children may not always follow what's going on, I've no doubt they will still watch The Likeaballs just for how bright it appears on the screen. Otherwise, the presentation is solid but never really outstanding. The picture and stereo PCM soundtrack is clean and both very watchable and easy to listen to but there's little exciting in either. Finally, there are no subtitles, which is something that the BBC releases will always include.
There are no actual extras on the disc but according to the press release, the retail DVD includes a free whoopee cushion. It's a pity that more DVDs, including those rated for adults only, don't spare the expense of recording a director's commentary in favour of buying in a job-lot of whoopee cushions.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:09:40