Elvis Presley (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) leads a double life. By day, he’s the superstar rock ‘n’ roll musician everyone knows and loves. By night, he’s a crime-fighting vigilante who delivers beatdowns as brutal as Batman. Right by his side is his dim-witted-yet-skillful chauffeur Billy Ray (Johnny Knoxville), his alcoholic, cocaine-snorting, sex-addicted chimpanzee Scatter (Tom Kenny), and his no-nonsense manager Bertie (Niecy Nash-Betts). When done with his heroic duties, he returns home to Priscilla (voiced by herself), unaware of his crime-fighting lifestyle. During one of his solo stunts, Elvis was recruited by cynical special agent Cece (Kaitlin Olson) to become a spy under a secret government program called TCB. Under the watch of The Commander (Don Cheadle), the short-fused and eccentric head of the TCB, Elvis embarks on various missions to stop a dangerous hypnotic weapon while grappling with a past he can’t remember.
“Agent Elvis” pops with vibrant colors and a graphic noir 2D-art style full of sharp geometric edges and thick outlines reminiscent of Gerard Way, Jamie Hewlett, and Genndy Tarkovsky, with the latter being a major influence for its course of violence, bloody action. As Elvis is thrust into action by the first dozen minutes of the inaugural episode, the level of passion poured into the artistry and style is worn on its sleeve, staying on its kinetic wavelength throughout the series. Its heavily inspired graphic novel aesthetic comes to life when the aspect ratio constantly forms different shapes and sizes like comic panels, along with action lines of eye-popping VFX techniques filling the background. It’s telling how much glee the animators at Vancouver-based studio Titmouse had when constructing the fast-paced action sequences. Robert Valley’s distinct geometric character designs pair well with Chris Thompson’s art direction, providing a broadened scope as grand as a globetrotting James Bond flick.
The adventures follow quasi-episodic, quasi-story-driven spy quests (a la “Archer”) either riffing on the pop culture events of the time—Elvis facing off against Charles Manson (Fred Armisen) and the Manson Family—or notable Elvis’ career milestones, like when he infiltrated the White House and met an outright racist Nixon. All the historical revisionist missions vary in quality and creativity, but the novelty of each premise wears off quickly.
As Sony Animations’ first venture into adult animation, “Agent Elvis” falls into the trappings of too many other adult-animated comedies, emphasizing vulgarity as the basis of humor rather than focusing on clever writing. The dark comedic tone of “Agent Elvis” attempts to break away from the shadow of other adult-animated spy comedies but fails to carve out its identity. Like “Archer,” here’s another lead portrayed as a womanizing sarcastic wisecracker with an inflated ego, who happens to be a highly skillful killing machine, paired up with a firecracker cynic. Whenever the comedic banter is set between an annoyed Elvis and controlling Cece (essentially Lana Kane mixed with Olson’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” character Dee Reynolds), the joke misses more than it hits. Many supporting players compare too much to the same offbeat character dynamics between the Archer crew but with an Elvis coat of paint.