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Thursday, February 26, 2009

FUTURAMA: INTO THE WILD GREEN YONDER (2009)

What's supposedly the last of the straight-to-DVD installments of FUTURAMA has hit and it's probably the best of the batch next to BENDER'S BIG SCORE (2007), but that's not necessarily a ringing endorsement. It's an entertaining enough way to pass eighty-eight minutes, but it didn't by any means knock me out.

The Planet Express gang are having a kickass business holiday on Mars Vegas while Professor Farnsworth is paid vast amounts of cash to look the other way yet legally verify that all of Leo Wong's — intern Amy's dad — environment-raping development of a totally new Vegas landscape is kosher. The environmental ravaging draws the attention of some very vocal eco-feminists but their protests fall on deaf ears as Leo Wong puts his plans for a miniature golf course into action, uncaring that it will lay waste to an entire planetary system, and at the heart of this system is a violet dwarf star that holds an incredible secret of great importance... During all of this, Fry develops the ability to read minds and gains membership in the Legion of Mad Fellows, Bender hooks up with the wife of the robot Mafia's DonBot, Amy and Leela fall in with the eco-feminists and unintentionally murder the headless corpse of Spiro Agnew (don't ask) and towering "space hero"/asshole Zapp Brannigan is called in to bring the eco-feminists to justice.

INTO THE WILD GREEN YONDER is entertaining enough, but it proves once again that FUTURAMA works best in self-contained half-hour doses that allow the jokes to fly fast and furious while maintaining a brisk pace. To varying degrees, all of the DVD movies are a bit overlong and a lot of the material seems included solely for the purpose of padding out the running time, as seen in this installment's subplot of Bender and the mob wife; that plot is introduced and goes absolutely nowhere, contributing absolutely nothing to the overall plot. In fact, that subplot could have been completely excised with no discernible effect on the rest of the feature. The eco-feminists when first seen appear to be a one-off gag, but their presence throughout the film becomes quite tiresome and predictable, leading Leela into behavior that is wildly out of character for her, and that flaw mars the last third of the film. In fact, I think it says a lot that the funniest thing on the DVD is a special feature that allegedly takes us behind the scenes of the making of FUTURAMA and reveals that every single creative task needed to make the series is handled by actress Lauren Tom, the voice of Amy. This segment is laugh-out-loud funny and should not be missed.

While it's always fun and entertaining to once more immerse into the well-realized world of FUTURAMA and its loony cast, this film kind of just chugs along until the secret of the violet dwarf star is revealed — a secret that turns out to be worth the wait and rather cosmically awesome — and displays considerably less wit than I know the filmmakers are capable of. What happened? Did the writers just lose interest? I hope not, because there is talk of bringing FUTURAMA back from the sepulcher of cancellation and if that's the case I'd like to see a return to the form that made the show the most unique of the Fox stable of animated shows and a beloved classic among sci-fi humor geeks. But until then INTO THE WILD GREEN YONDER will have to serve to hold us FUTURAMA fans over until the series is resurrected, and I'd like to see that happen sooner than later thanks to the film's wide-open-for-a-sequel ending.

2 comments:

raymondconlon said...

Sad, really, that the quality of the series couldn't be carried into a longer running time. We had the movies cut up into 3/4 episodes over here, which actually made it WORSE, it seemed.

But at least they tried!

I think if they had made a movie in the same vein as the seymour or the lucky clover episodes, it would definitely be incredible. The right mixture of comedy and emotion in those two reduced me to tears every time I've watched them. They're that good!

Bunche said...

The episode with Fry's dog faithfully waiting for him to return...That's possibly the single most heartbreaking moment in television history.