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New fall season: Fox's Allen Gregory looks good, feels creepy

Ewww. Allen Gregory has a crush on his elementary school principal. Fox photo

Premiering: Sunday, Oct. 30th at 7:30 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Jonah Hill, French Stewart, Nat Faxon, Will Forte, Cristina Pucelli, Joy Osmanski, Renee Taylor, Leslie Mann, Jake Johnson
Produced by: Jonah Hill, Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul

Roughly halfway through Allen Gregory, I began to pine for the simple slam-bang violence of those old Popeye and Roadrunner cartoons.

A quick-healing, carrot-sized bump on the noggin may not qualify as high art. But the verbal assaults rippling through today's TV animation seem more mindless than Bluto being sent airborne by a spinach-powered shot to the chops.

Allen Gregory, which looks great by the way, is soiled by a scene in which its pretentious seven-year-old protagonist swoons in the presence of a super-obese, gravelly-voiced, 68-year-old school principal named Judith Gottlieb (Renee Taylor). He envisions a romantic getaway with her before being unable to stop himself from loudly passing gas and other materials.

Returning home to self-important father Richard De Longpre (French Stewart) and his muscle-bound male life partner, a sobbing Allen (Jonah Hill) confesses to having "a broken heart -- and undergarments filled with my own unruly waste." Young males who have never been exposed to Wile E. Coyote regrouping after being blown to bits might find this hysterically funny. But what do they know?

The newest entry in Fox's Sunday night "Animation Domination" lineup has a studiously wry sensibility that occasionally jells. It's amusing, for instance, to see Allen (Jonah Hill), readying his sushi and Pinot Grigio lunch in the school cafeteria. And Stewart ably conveys the pomp and circumstances of Allen's imperious yet doting dad, whose previously plentiful cash flow lately has slowed to a trickle.

This requires Richard's put-upon life partner, Jeremy (Nat Faxon), to both get a job and give up his home-schooling of Allen, who thoroughly disdains him. So it's off to Feldstein Elementary, where Allen instantly wars with his second grade teacher, Gina Winthrop (Leslie Mann), while more or less befriending a commonplace classmate named Patrick (Cristina Pucelli).

Also included are Will Forte as ass-kissing superintendent Stewart Rossmyre and Jake Johnson voicing school stud Joel Zadak. Allen has a sister, too. She's Asian adoptee Julie Neung (Joy Osmanski), who pretty much loathes everything about her new environment, including Allen.

The animation -- and this bears repeating -- is first rate. So that's reason enough to give Allen Gregory a look. Maybe the content also will rise to the level of the art deco-ish visuals. But the opening episode has an overall creepy feel to it, paced of course by a seven-year-old's carnal longings for his gruff sexagenerian principal.

So far she's not reciprocating.