'Central Park' Review: Stanley Tucci's evil heiress, rousing songs are best parts of Apple TV+’s family comedy
The following review of ‘Central Park’ contains no spoilers
What do you get when you take ‘Bob's Burgers’, but remove the Belcher family, burgers, and add a lot of show tunes? You get ‘Central Park’, Apple TV+’s upcoming animated musical comedy series.
Created by Loren Bouchard (Bob’s Burgers), Josh Gad, and Nora Smith, the series follows the Tillerman family that lives in Central Park. Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.), the park manager, and Paige (Kathryn Hahn), his journalist wife, raise their kids Molly (Kristen Bell) and Cole (Tituss Burgess) in the world’s most famous park.
All is hunky-dory until Bitsy Brandenham (Stanley Tucci), a bite-sized, evil, old hotel heiress, tired of seeing the park’s views from her penthouse balcony, decides to destroy it, by turning it into a real estate project.
The story, while unique to Central Park, is one we have heard and seen many times before. An evil rich person using the might of capitalism to destroy a heritage site for profit, and a bunch of weird misfits coming to save the day is hardly an original tale. It’s a bit of a play on the “saving the orphanage” trope that we’ve seen in films like ‘The Goonies’, ‘Sister Act’, ‘Madeline’, and many, many more.
So, what sets ‘Central Park’ apart from the rest? For one, the visuals. Any fan of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ will not be able to resist watching this show. Animated shows from the same creators featuring the same visual aesthetics are fairly common. We’ve seen that in ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Futurama’, ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad!’, ‘Rick and Morty’ and ‘Solar Opposites’. It’s the familiarity that draws us in, and then bam! You realize that it's not the same show at all, but something totally new and refreshing.
And while, obviously, it’s nothing like ‘Bob’s Burgers’ in its plot, there are some amazing thematic similarities. A patriarchal character who is passionate about his work. A supportive matriarch. And of course, weird kids. Bouchard’s presence is also felt in the dialogues of the show -- they are awkward but don’t have an improvised feel to them. They end abruptly as if the voice actor is uncertain of what they’re reading. And above all, they’re funny.
Another big selling point of the show is the musical numbers. Be it Birdie (Gad), the narrator’s commentary on what’s going on, or random people breaking into songs (sometimes even rap) to express inner monologue. We’ve already seen Bell’s talent in ‘Frozen’, and Burgess’ in the occasional numbers on ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, but on ‘Central Park’, they shine more than anywhere else, and that’s when they have two actors from the cast of ‘Hamilton’ on the show!
Above all else, however, what makes ‘Central Park’ lovable is the sheer wholesomeness of the show. It’s full of hopes and dreams, which even if totally insignificant compared to anything are important to the characters. You think this would be just another animated comedy with unconnected adventures and shenanigans, but it’s not. It’s a proper story with funny subplots and lovable characters.
It may not be an original story, but it’s nonetheless a really good one that gets you more invested than you thought it would. And Stanley Tucci as an evil, batty old lady, is just spectacular.
‘Central Park’ will premiere on Apple TV+ on May 29.