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Penn & Teller

The Simpsons 25th Anniversary
by yo go re

Some words only work in pairs. I say "pen," you think of the thing that's attached to a chain on the counter at the bank; I say "teller," you think of the person working that counter. But if I say "Penn & Teller," it means something entirely different - and that's why we're reviewing these two separate releases together.

If there's one thing bad boys of magic Penn & Teller dislike more than bulls*** [sic] it's magicians who steal tricks from other magicians. That's why in Season 22's "The Great Simpsina" the famous duo take it upon themselves to destroy Lisa's magical nemesis, the thieving, fraudulent and not-based-on-anyone-real Cregg Demon.

Penn Jillette is the larger, more boisterous member of the pair - in that he actually speaks (and rather loudly at that)! He's the carnival barker, the face man, the grifter, bellowing at the audience and helping direct their attention wherever it needs to go. And yet in real life, he's actually quite humble. He's said "I'm not the best magician in the world - I'm not even the best magician at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, or the best magician in Penn & Teller." It's possible to act like a jerk in public but not really mean it? Who ever would have guessed!

Despite being posed in a slight "action crouch," Penn is nearly 5⅜" tall - we told you he was a giant! Remember, Homer (our gauge of an "average" man) didn't even break the 5" mark. Penn is dressed for the stage, wearing a dark grey suit with a lighter gray vest and a red tie. He's got buttons sculpted down the front of his vest, and pleats on his pants.

The likeness is terrific. Penn's slightly wavy hair is pulled back into a poofy ponytail, and there are few lines sculpted into the top to make it clear that this is hair, not a cap or something. His goatee is molded on his chin, and his glasses are a separate piece glued lightly in place above his ears. There's even a perfect smirk on his lips.

Penn only moves at the neck, waist and shoulders - all swivels. He does get an accessory, however: it's just a simple magic wand, black with white tips (well, light gray, but you get the idea). His left hand is molded to hold the wand, but it's a tight fit: we wouldn't recommend moving it much, or you're likely to have paint wearing off.

Penn's tiny partner was named Raymond by his parents, but has legally changed his name to just Teller. Of course, that may not be true of this guy: "The Great Simpsina" was Penn & Teller's second appearance on The Simpsons; in their first, "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder," we learn that Teller is not the first Teller - a fact that's easy to conceal when they're never allowed to talk on stage (Penn allegedly beats them if they slip up).

Teller is standing mostly upright, yet is only 4¾" tall. Like his mouthy partner, Teller is wearing a colorless suit, but in his case, the colors are reversed: light gray suit with a darker grey vest. His pale blue necktie doesn't really stand out as well as Penn's red one, though. Accurate to the design on the show, his vest doesn't have any buttons - his only sculpted elements are the lapels on his coat, the edges of his clothes, and a few simple wrinkles on the elbows, ankles, and the backs of his knees. It may sound simple, but for something based on a cartoon, it's perfect.

The head, however, is not. While Penn looked like Penn, Teller looks like... someone, maybe. Who's that Asian lady who's in everything? [Amy Hill? --ed.] It doesn't look like Teller, it doesn't look like Teller looked in the episode, it doesn't look like anything. If he wasn't standing next to Penn, you'd never know who this was supposed to be. NECA really needed to go back to the drawing board on this one; heck, use his appearance on Futurama if you have to, at least he was recognizable there.

"Teller" comes with an accessory of his own. One of the jokes in the episode was that Penn & Teller (as well as David Copperfield and Ricky Jay) were illusionists, but still had magic powers of their own. Teller conjured a crackling ball of energy like Ryu, and that's what the toy comes with. It's translucent blue and sculpted with a wavy, undulating surface. He doesn't have any pegs or holes on his hands to hold it in place, but his shoulders are angled in such a way that they bring the arms close enough together that he can clutch it naturally. Unfortunately, the pose of his legs doesn't provide a lot of stability.

Honestly, all Simpsons action figures are pretty much the same: minimal paint, simple sculpt, four points of articulation, etc. So "good" or "bad" really depends on the execution of the figure within those parameters - Evil Willie can be a good toy even if he's not exactly like the real thing, you know? And sadly, by virtue of his non-likeness likeness, Teller's not a very good Simpsons toy. But Penn is, and you really can't have one without the other - Penn and Teller have been working together since the 1975 Minnesota Renaissance Festival, so who are we to split them up now? Teller may not look like Teller, but what other tiny magician is going to be standing next to Penn? The two toys average out to a decent pair.

-- 10/04/14


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