So by now maybe you’ve all run out and purchased or rented the new Futurama movie “Bender’s Big Score.” If you haven’t, congratulations! You’ve won the honor of getting to read a review before you see it. So here we go:
The first in a set of four films the Futurama team is putting out, “Bender’s Big Score” picks up where the series left off more or less, as much as an episodic animated show with only a vague story arc and minor continuity between episodes can pick up. Scamming Alien Spammers are able to trick the Planet Express crew, as well as Farnsworth himself, into giving up personal information, and gain ownership of the business. The spammers (who look like the offspring of a human and one of Dr. Suesses “Sneech’s” melted in a microwave would), thrive off of information, and discover a code hidden in a PE crewmember’s tattoo that allows them to go back through time. The aliens load Bender up with a virus and use him as their errand boy to hop through time, pick up priceless treasures, and wait out the thousands of years it takes for time to catch up under the Planet Express building.
Once again the Futurama team delve into the insane and entertaining realm of time travel. With characters jumping back and forth multiple times, creating more and more duplicates of themselves running around, the paradoxical hilarity grows exponentially (rimshot!). If you thought the team did a good job playing around with time during the series, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Fry is eventually stranded in the past, and we get to see how his life would have played out, had he never been frozen in the first place. Meanwhile, Leela gets engaged to the man of her dreams (much to Fry’s chagrin) and Bender continues to hop around, screwing up time and creating paradoxes that Nibbler warns could destroy the Universe. OH THE ANIMATED DRAMA!
The whole of Earth now owned by the Scammers, Earthican’s launch a “Star Wars: ANH”-style attack on the aliens solid gold Deathstars and attempt to halt the wave of paradoxes that will soon destroy the Universe. That’s about as much of the story as I want to give you without starting to running your viewing.
The Good: The crazy time travel storyline is great, and the movie handles it in the same confusingly bizarre and hilarious way as the series did. The film had a lot of strong gags, and the sideline plots were, for the most part, funny and relevant to the characters and the series. The return of various characters was also a nice touch. Just a sampling include: Fry's ex-girlfriend Michelle (Sarah Silverman), Cubert, Barbados Slim, the Harlem Globetrotters, Al Gore (of course voiced by Gore himself), the Nibblonians, Fry's dog Seymour, Fry's family, including his brother and nephew of the same name, the Santa. Hanukkah Zombie (Mark Hamill) and Kwanzaa-bot (Coolio), and the Mob-bots. The animation is high quality, and the characters are the same as you knew them in the series.
The Bad: Unfortunately, as the film is highly self-referential, many of the appearances, jokes, and bits of the storyline aren’t very accessible to people who haven’t followed the series. At times it comes off as fanboy homage, with a lot of “hey remember that character, here he is again!” Much of this probably comes from the fact that the movies are going to be quartered and aired as episodes, so they will be referencing previous seasons as shows, and when aired on TV, won’t seem so “packed full of fan favorites.” The writing also seems to have suffered slightly. Whether this is because of the team’s first foray into feature length writing of the show, or due to the long break and possible rustiness of the writers I don’t know. Many (but not most) of the gags fall flat, and the musical numbers, while somewhat funny, seem a little out of the blue. While a lot of the fanboy-esque problems are probably pluses in most die hard Futurama fans’ minds, for a standalone movie they can be a bit much. The lack of a full-orchestrated score is also a bit disappointing, but you most likely won’t recognize it all that much with the reprising modifications to the theme that are used. None of this, however, should dissuade you from seeing the film, especially if you’re a big fan of the series.
Goddamn they are so ugly.
Overall, the first Fururama movie is quite enjoyable. It can stagger in a couple places, but for Futurama fans it’s necessary viewing. Go out and get it right now! Or, you can wait for it to air next year. I get the feeling that it will make for four very good episodes. The downside to not buying the dvd is the lack of special features, which I will list below and then bid you adieu.
Obligatory Grade: B/B-
- Commentary track on which writers and producers Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Ken Keeler and Claudia Katz, director Dwayne Carey-Hill and voice actors Billy West, Jon DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr
- An animated and terrifying message from the 2000 Ex-Next President and Futurama guest star Al Gore makes thinking about the environment so much cooler (complete with video commentary with Gore, Groening and Cohen)
- 22 minute episode of “Everybody Loves Hypnotoad” complete with commercials
- A math lecture with Dr. Greenwald of Appalachian State University that explains some of the more nerdy jokes and references in Futurama to the Futurama cast and crew
- First Draft of the Film’s Script
- A number of character sketches and 3D models show what's been designed for the new movie, while three deleted scenes (not fully animated) show what had to be cut
- The complete five-minute trailer first shown at ComicCon 2007 and a "Futurama returns!" comic book reading with the voices of the Futurama characters are included
That’s all folks!