Agent Elvis is now streaming on Netflix.
Premiering less than a week after Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis went home empty-handed at the 95th Academy Awards, Netflix’s Agent Elvis brings the late music icon to animated life with a little less (serious) conversation and a lot more action. The show is an Archer-esque animated action-comedy spy series that also just so happens to be a big ol’ valentine to the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Co-created by Elvis’ former wife Priscilla Presley and John Eddie (who co-showruns with Mike Arnold), Agent Elvis is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a larger-than-life person who, by his own admission in a 1971 acceptance speech, grew up imagining himself as the hero in comic books and movies. The show brings Elvis’ wacky desire to become a secret agent to amusing and over-the-top life even if its high concept often risks becoming a one-note joke.
While each of the 10 episodes in the first season clip along at a brisk pace – punctuated by a few Elvis songs here and there as secret agent Elvis and his cohorts in the U.S. intelligence agency TCB (The Central Bureau) encounter trouble around the globe – each story employs the same formula. Set against the backdrop of a major historic event or a highlight of Elvis’ career, an unflappable Elvis juggles showbiz with crime-fighting while sassy TCB agent CeCe Ryder busts his chops and her eccentric boss, known as The Commander, reveals more of what the TCB really wants with Elvis. If this was a weekly episodic series that might not be such an issue, but as this is a Netflix show that repetition is felt if you abandon patience and binge it.
And what of Agent Elvis himself? With his own distinctive Southern drawl and charisma, Matthew McConaughey may sound more like himself rather than Elvis, but he plays this Elvis-as-good ol’ boy action hero with the right degree of self-assurance and machismo. Although only in his early 30s, this Elvis is a relic of the 1950s who’s out of step in the Swingin’ ‘60s. He’s no fan of hippies, street drugs, or the various revolutionary groups targeting the country he loves. Initially acting as a vigilante, this gun-toting, karate-kickin’ Elvis metes out Dirty Harry-style justice on everyone from coke dealers to the Manson Family. McConaughey’s massively cool and confident Elvis is reminiscent of Sean Connery’s swaggering, alpha 007.
The supporting voice cast all bring their own unique charms as well: garbed in a Black Widow/Emma Peel-style black leather catsuit, the foul-mouthed, ball-busting, and uninhibited CeCe Ryder is hilariously brought to life by Kaitlin Olson, never showing the pop culture icon she’s teamed with any respect. Meanwhile, Don Cheadle scores several big laughs with his gonzo “what if Nick Fury was unhinged?” portrayal of The Commander. Niecy Nash’s strong-willed Bertie – who has known Elvis since he was a kid – also gets several funny bits throughout the season, most of them parrying The Commander’s unreciprocated advances.
Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla Presley voices her younger self in a handful of appearances, with the standout being the silly and psychedelic eighth episode “Head Soup.” In his second Elvis-themed project (following 2016’s Elvis & Nixon) Johnny Knoxville imbues idiot savant mechanic Bobby Ray with enough dopey sweetness and obliviousness to make the jokes at his expense work. The biggest scene-stealer among the supporting characters, though, is Scatter: voiced with squeals and squeaks by SpongeBob himself, Tom Kenny, he’s an absolute maniac of a simian who loves cocaine, whores, gambling, bloodshed, and all manner of decadence. (Yes, Elvis really did have a booze-swilling chimp named Scatter.) We also get some notable guest stars who pop up from time to time.
Every Elvis Actor Ever
As fanciful as Agent Elvis is, the show adheres remarkably closely to the timeline of Elvis’ life, even lining up with the exact dates of certain events that only die-hard Elvis fans might know about. (For example, one episode is set on January 15, 1971, and it has a ticking clock element to it where Elvis must get home in time to accept his Jaycees award on January 16.) The show even manages to address, with biting wit, criticisms of cultural appropriation in Elvis’ music, while also managing to plug a Jet Magazine interview with Elvis from 1957 that refuted the most notorious allegations of racism that still dog Presley’s legacy. All of this is to say that showrunners/writers Mike Arnold and John Eddie have done their research in order to pepper in interesting and entertaining historic details about Elvis in what is an otherwise completely ludicrous, fabricated tale.
Agent Elvis is fairly meta, with celeb cameos, Easter eggs, and homages to everything from Star Wars to classic James Bond movies. Sony Pictures Animation provides Agent Elvis with a distinctive, retro, comic book-style aesthetic, which is fitting considering this Elvis is a gadget-wielding superhero engaged in everything from martial arts brawls to aerial escapades. (Season One spans from 1968 to 1973, when Elvis was still in his physical and artistic prime, and there’s no hint in this idealized depiction of Elvis of his established drug use or even womanizing.)
But that’s all window dressing in a show whose key function is to serve as wish fulfillment for Elvis fans who, in turn, want to see Elvis get to live out his own childhood fantasy of being a superhero secret agent. If these Elvis fans can also appreciate racy animated comedy, so much the better.