Saturday, April 14, 2007

REVIEW: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters

It's not really possible to describe WHY "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" is funny. It just is. That more or less sums up the entirety of the "in-house" produced fare that runs on Cartoon Network's nighttime "Adult Swim" block. Oh, there are "jokes," yes, but the majority of the humor is organic; derived from the rambling oddities spewed from the "mouths" of nominally-animated characters imbued with gloriously unhinged, definable-yet-hard-to-pin-down vocal performances. The voice-actors inhabit their strange, largely self-created dreamscape in a manner that's much more characterization than "schtick," resulting in humor that (in it's best spots) brings to mind the famous positive critique of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" calling it "a very clever radio program with the bonus of accompanying drawings." (or something to that effect.)

Which is a very "fancy" way of saying that I have no freaking idea how one is supposed to review "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters." I can tell you that it's incredibly funny, that one part in particular (and opening gag spoofing vintage movie theater pre-show ads) may end up being the single funniest piece of film of the entire year, but also that it's not quite the second coming of the "South Park" movie, etc. I could tell you all that... but I can't really say "why." It just is.

It's tempting to take the easy route and say (as the film does) that no one who isn't already a "convert" to the Aqua Teen fanbase need not apply, but I don't agree. On the contrary, fans of this style of humor who haven't yet seen the show will have benefit of encountering the recurring "bits" and guest-characters freshly. Of course, that begs the question of exactly WHAT this style of humor even IS...

But, for the record: The Aqua Teen Hunger Force (the characters originated as a creepy sendup of fast food mascots on "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" and gradually evolved into their present form) is a 'superhero' team of talking food items: Super-smart Frylock, a box of fries; childlike Meatwad, a meatball, and obnoxious Master Shake, a milkshake. They don't really "do" much hero-ing, though, prefering to slack around their rented New Jersey house, bug their slovenly neighbor Carl and let all manner of supernatural strangeness come to them. Try to imagine a hybrid of "Fantastic Four" and "Sandford & Son." Except they're all food. And not actually anything like that.

If there is a specific, overriding "theme" of the gags in the movie, it's the idea of a self-effacing ribbing of the very nature of it's being: i.e. big-screen feature versions of animated cult TV shows; and all the mandatory "promise" they're supposed offer of larger-scale adventures, multi-character cameos, backstory revelations and long-in-coming showdowns or character turns. To this end, the ATHF confront a potential apocalypse in the form of a demonically-powered exercise machine, "The Insanoflex"... but it's a bit unclear as to how or WHY this thing is going to end the world. Perennial fan-fave bad guys The Mooninites, The Plutonians, Dr. Weird and the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past are all on hand... not necessarily "doing" anything. Fans may or may not have been waiting to see the "final battle" of Frylock and Dr. Weird, but they'll get it... sort of. And we finally get to learn the secret origins of the Aqua Teens... or maybe we don't... or maybe we do.

It's kind of impressive that this thing works at all, considering that if ANYTHING has a dubious chance of working as a feature film a 10-minute cartoon short certainly qualifies. But, somehow, what's finally just a slightly-more-elaborate, nines-times-longer version of the show fits together pretty damn well. Or... maybe it doesn't. I dunno, at times this is sort of like trying to divine if Picasso actually knew how to draw. What I do know is that Bruce Campbell turns up, as does "Rush" drummer Neil Pearth. And that's pretty damn awesome, right there.