Monday, July 06, 2009

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

(Movie Review)

Despite my best efforts to buckle down and study, I end up wasting more and more time watching stupid movies.

But you can say this for Futurama, it's a very pleasant waste of time.

Although I was a big Simpsons fan, I didn't watch much Futurama when it was on in the late 90s. I saw the first episode, wasn't terribly impressed, and never really followed up on it. (Half of the series run was after I had gone to Japan anyway).

I became a Futurama fan when I was living back in the states a few years ago. I was working 3rd shift so I was on a weird sleep schedule, and watching a lot of late night cable TV. And Futurama was being re-run late at night on both the Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.

And it was a lot of fun. It may not have been quite as funny as the Simpsons was during their hey day, but the fact that the series took place in a wonderful animated crazy future world meant that absolutely any zany idea could happen. Every few minutes some ridiculous new alien or futuristic gadget would come on screen. It was perfect brain candy for my short attention span.

Since that time, Futurama came out with 4 direct to DVD movies (W). The other night, I was feeling in the mood for some light entertainment. Renting these movies was not an option as they never got released in Japan, so I thought I'd try and track down an internet copy of the first of these movies. (Which, I don't need to tell you web savy people, is no problem at all. Within a couple minutes I found what I was looking for.)

For now, I feel like I got my fix in, so I have no plans to continue on and watch the rest of the movies in the near future. But you never know. My self-resolve may break down again, and I might find myself wasting more time watching movies of the internet. Stay tuned to this blog to find out.

This movie isn't anything special. It's essentially just an hour and a half episode of Futurama. But that's okay. Unlike "The Simpsons" much hyped theatrical release, this was a direct to DVD movie, so it's about what you would expect. And unlike "The Simpsons Movie", it held my interest all the way to the end.

The movie starts out with some great comic self-referencing: a series of gags in which the characters almost seem self-aware of having been cancelled two years previously, and a not very subtle attack of the Fox executives who ordered it.

From there it quickly descends into the usually Futurama zaniness and morbid humor, complete with one of the main characters getting his head chopped off and his body crushed within the first 10 minutes.

For fans of the series (which is probably everyone who goes through the trouble to rent the DVD), there are lots of references to previous characters. One of the neat things about Futurama (unlike most cartoon comedy shows) is that it actually keeps track of its continuity and characters and stories evolve over time. That's true in this movie as well.
But, lest I intimidate any newcomers, it's also pretty easy to catch onto what is going on.

Richard Nixon's head once again returns as the President of Earth, complete with his trusty Spiro Agnew by his side. (That whole running Nixon gag is another thing I love about Futurama. Any other show would have given up on mocking Nixon by the 21st century, but Futurama is still kicking him around.)

The songs were the weak point--a pity because Groenig and his team have put together some wonderful musical parodies over the years on both Simpsons and Futurama, but this time around they obviously didn't have the time (or maybe the energy) to bother. The songs end up essentially just being time fillers.

All in all, a great way to waste time for anyone trying to get through another week night.

Link of the Day
"Black Faces in Limousines:" A Conversation with Noam Chomsky


Whisky Prajer said...

By the time Futurama was introduced to television I'd about had my fill of the Simpsons. Loved Futurama. Throw in King Of The Hill and Family Guy (which I'm not as smitten with as the rest of my peer group) and we seem to be living in a Golden Age of Adult Satirical Television Animation.

Joel said...

I never really liked "King of the Hill" to be honest. To each his own I guess. Family Guy covers a lot of weak plotting with its random humor, but when they are on they are really on.
South park is another one of my favorites. I didn't become a fan until the past couple years, but they really do biting satire brilliantly.

But agreed, we all living in a golden age of Adult animation.