The supplemental disc of the two-disc AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATRES FOR DVD set contains a “deleted movie” (a quasi-Leica reel of the released feature whose main distinction is a sub-plot about “hypno-rims”); a set of “fake endings” that range from STAND BY ME sensitive to Romero zombie-fest; a collection of deleted scenes that for some reason also includes the “Star-Studded Xmas Spectacular” that Adult Swim aired to recycle all of that excised hypno-rim footage; and some behind-the-scenes music video clips (yes, it is pretty funny watching metal-rockers Mastodon commit to such lyrics as, “If I see you videotaping this movie/Satan will rain down your throat with hot acid).
I bring this up at the top for a reason: It’s traditional after describing such material to note that only hard-core fans would be interested in it. But who are we kidding? This whole exercise was never intended for anyone other than those who had already bought into the rarefied headset of AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE. Maiellaro and Willis don’t waste time explaining their set-up (good luck if you don’t know what a Plutonian or a Mooninite is, or are hoping someone will explain why a giant arachnid in a shower cap and diapers is performing hip-hop in Hell). While there are improvements in the animation (a hastily-shot making-of goes out of its way to showcase the work involved in making one character dissolve), they’re not so significant that the whole thing doesn’t settle back down quite comfortably on the home screen. All told, the operative philosophy of this outing seems to have been, “Like what you’ve seen on cable? Well, here it is again, lots of it.”
Okay, well and good. SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, AND UNCUT and THE SIMPSONS MOVIE grew into their theatrical incarnations because the ambitions of their producers were larger to begin with. Maiellaro, Willis and Co. seem quite comfortable in the sandbox they’ve dug themselves, and if you get into their humor to start, there isn’t much about AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS (that, sans the FOR DVD, is the film’s actual title) that will disappoint. The typical, nattering byplay between the characters, the stoned-out tangents, the gratuitous raunch and gore are all here (for the record, the plot, such as it is, has to do with the titular sentient fast food items battling a giant exercise machine bent on world domination… or spawning… or gittin’ down with its bad self to a disco cut called I Like Your Booty (But I’m Not Gay)… or something like that). There are a few solid laughs along the way (among my favorites, the sight of prototypical NJ-ite Carl, flayed, chained to a bed, and holding a lollipop — like I say, a very rarefied audience), but, as with the original show, the goal seems to be to inspire not wall-to-wall guffaws but are-these-guys-ballsy-enough-to-push-this-shit-to-the-limit awe. That they’re able to pull it off, and, more amazingly, keep it going for close to ninety minutes has to count as something of a triumph.
Such a triumph remains in the eye of the beholder, of course. The only ground that’s being broken here is essentially in discovering what it takes to inspire the regular ATHF viewer to get up off the couch and spend hard-earned pizza-and-incense money (if you know what I mean) on a theater ticket (turns out they got the formula right — the film actually made back its meager $750,000 budget several times over). If what you’re looking for is animation that expands the imagination and challenges preconceptions, seek out PAPRIKA and prepare to have your mind blown. If, on the other hand, all you’re up for is something to help you ride out a good buzz (and the only thing on Adult Swim at the moment happens to be a six-hour BLEACH marathon), then a feature length dose of the Force will go down as smooth as a super-sized bag of Doritos. It’s nowhere near as funny as watching the city of Boston go on terrorist alert because of a viral publicity campaign gone horribly, horribly wrong, but it’s in the right league.
AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS FOR DVD (Warner Home Video, 2007). 87 minutes. Directed by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis. Voices: Dana Snyder, Carey Means, Andy Merrill, C. Martin Croker and Neal Peart.
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