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Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters for DVD Review

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007) movie poster Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Theatrical Release: April 13, 2007 / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis

Voice Cast: Dana Snyder (Master Shake), Carey Means (Frylock), Dave Willis (Meatwad, Carl, Ignignokt, Video Game Voice), Matt Maiellaro (Err, Cybernetic Ghost, Satan), C. Martin Croker (Dr. Weird, Steve), Andy Merrill (Oglethorpe), Mike Schatz (Emory), Fred Armisen (Time Lincoln), Bruce Campbell (Chicken Bittle), George Lowe (Space Ghost), mc chris (MC Pee Pants), Chris Kattan (Walter Melon), Neil Pearl of Rush (Himself), Isaac Hayes III (Plantation Owner), Tina Fey (Burrito), Jon "Big Jon" Benjamin (CIA Agent #1), Jon Glaser (CIA Agent #2), Craig Hartin (Rob Goldstein), Matt Harrigan (Linda)

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It's not unheard of for television shows to get adapted for feature film treatment. Recent years have found plenty of such creatures playing in cinemas, from affectionate spoofs of yesteryear shows to expansions of in-production children's cartoons. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters fits into a less populous class of cable programs with cult followings whose producers see some potential in transforming their hip creation into a big screen effort. The existence of films like Comedy Central's South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and MTV-spawned Jackass: The Movie means that Aqua Teen isn't entirely unprecedented.
But Aqua Teen still stands on its own. As far as I know, it's the first and only time an 11-minute late-night animated series has been tapped for theaters. Further distinguishing the project are its R rating, very modest $750 thousand budget, and an ad campaign that yielded police arrests and a CEO's resignation.

Such uniquity isn't too surprising because "unusual" has to be the word most commonly associated with "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", the nonsensically-titled show from which the movie springs. Born out of a rejected script for "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast", "Aqua Teen" debuted on Cartoon Network on the next-to-last day of 2000. The following September, the show became one of the founding series of Adult Swim, a late night lineup of edgy, absurdist animated comedies. Six years later, both "Aqua Teen" and Adult Swim remain on the air, with the latter having technically been split from its parent channel for ratings purposes. The longest-running and arguably the most emblematic Adult Swim cartoon, "Aqua Teen" also became the first creation of the programming block's producer, Williams Street studio, to see the inside of a theater when the quirkily-named Movie Film for Theaters opened at 877 sites this past spring.

This Movie begins promisingly enough, with a duel between two sets of theater policy announcement food mascots giving way to the obligatory action epic opener set in a contradictory past and delivered with subtitled foreign dialogue. Within ten minutes, however, what started as an ambitious parody of movie conventions with the series' random sense of humor quickly settles into the design of an ordinary "Aqua Teen" episode.

The Aqua Teen Hunger Force -- Master Shake, Meatwad, Frylock -- holds a conversation by Shake's unmaintained Insanoflex machine. The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past visits the Plutonians Oglethorpe and Emory.

At its home base, a New Jersey suburb, the movie finds its core cast somewhat characteristically at a loss for what to do. This core cast, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, consists of three anthropomorphic fast food items. Patient, rational, and the unofficial leader is Frylock, a floating, goateed red packet with French fries for hair. A simple and lazy white cup with a flexible pink straw, Master Shake is the central dynamic's comedic everyman. Rounding out the trio is the childish Meatwad, literally a wad of compressed meat, who speaks in an intelligible gurgle.

After his backyard concert Girl Quest 2007 draws no guests, Meatwad opens his ears to the mindless advice of Shake, who introduces him to his Insanoflex exercise machine. This device winds up being the most influential character in the movie, as its powers are even greater than advertised.
While Frylock, Shake, and Meatwad search for the machine's missing pieces, more malicious minds are also drawn to the Insanoflex from places as diverse as outer space and the South Jersey Shore. Entering the fold are a pair of once episode opening staples, the mad scientist Dr. Weird and his test tube-holding assistant Steve. Also appearing are pointy Pluto aliens Oglethorpe and Emory, joined by the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past and his wildly unfounded theories. Of course, Ignignokt and Err, the pixelated and not particularly threatening Mooninites, show up as well.

Trouble ensues when the Force's hairy next-door neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski (clad, as always, in his wifebeater and sweatpants) gets on the Insanoflex and can't get off, finding himself at the center of a mobile destructor and unable to cease rigorous exercising, resulting in ballooning muscles. To describe the plot in any greater detail than that would be to completely miss the point. Yes, there is in fact a plot, but it is convoluted enough to approach irrelevance, with its twists and turns rendering the ultimate destination of little interest.

The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past of the Future tries the hard way to get Carl to talk. Stealing a coffee table and dishing out innuendo is about the extent of the hell raised by the Mooninites, pink Err and green Ignignokt.

Playing out like an episode that's been stretched to the length of 8 episodes, this movie never really takes off. "Aqua Teen" is more about making people laugh than telling stories, but this feature adaptation succeeds at neither. Like the series, the movie seems like it'd be best enjoyed by those who are either heavily inebriated or under the influence of non-prescription drugs. Watching it straight, I found the humor to be sporadic at best and the storyline to be tiring.

Aqua Teen is funniest when it's parodying cinematic clichés or having its way with timing and awkward exchanges. Sadly, the movie would much rather make jokes about genitals, vomiting, and bodies that bleed down to their skeletons. Perhaps that's what the show's most faithful viewers want; nearly 50% of the tremendously-skewed IMDb voter population rated the movie a perfect 10. If all the movie's makers set out to do is satisfy those who watch the show for shock value, then more power to them. But I would have enjoyed it much more had the comedy of weirdness angle been sufficiently explored, and I think the apathetic majority would have too.

As it is, the back of the DVD case doesn't even attempt to explain what this is. And clever though it may be, the epic cover art is deliberately misleading. Together along with the general public-neglecting film, it appears that the makers of "Aqua Teen"/Aqua Teen are content to keep their show an inside joke, which they're in no hurry to let more people in on. This was reflected on the movie's box office earnings: more than half of its $5.5 M gross came during the opening weekend, after which the film dramatically dropped 72% and continued to tumble from there.

Meatwad's backyard concert Girl Quest 2007 isn't quite a success. Frylock and Shake go back in time (with a gun) and pay Oglethorpe and Emory a visit at their college.

For the general public, Aqua Teen may be best remembered for the scare it created around Boston in late-January. LED signs depicting the Mooninites Ignignokt and Err with middle fingers raised -- part of a guerilla marketing campaign -- were feared to be bombs. Highways and bridges were closed, two people who distributed the signs were arrested, and Jim Samples resigned after 13 years as the head of Cartoon Network. The network's parent, Turner Broadcasting System, and the campaign's contractor, Interference, Inc., would together pay more than twice the film's budget: $1 million to cities and state agencies affected (nearly half of that going to Boston government) and another million in goodwill funding to homeland security. It would appear that in the end not even the publicity generated from this ordeal could trump more interest in the movie.

Earning the MPAA's equivalent of the TV-MA that later episodes receive, Aqua Teen...Theaters is rated R for sexual humor, surprisingly violent images, and language. As far as that last element is concerned, there is a fair sprinkling of profanity, some of it randomly and ineffectually bleeped. It is tame compared to words clean on their own that strung together conjure worse images or even the shameless Volkswagen product placement. Despite it being animated and featuring anthropomorphic food items, Aqua Teen is definitely not appropriate for young teens and those under. On the other side, however, those past their early 20s may not consider it appropriate either.

Buy Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lavish animation and aesthetic beauty have never been among "Aqua Teen"'s arsenal and the movie upholds the series' low-budget tradition, albeit presented in a fine 16x9-enhanced 1.78:1 transfer. The visuals have a flat, layered look at which the top layer (the characters) appears to have a slight haze over it. But the element itself is clean and any complaints with regards to the picture quality are likely to apply to the movie rather than its leap to home video. Among those, the framing feels a little tight, as if it may have been animated for standard television dimensions and matted later in the game.

The soundtrack can be enjoyed in your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or two-channel stereo. Though the movie includes a number of loud songs, for the most part, it's quiet and dialogue-driven, with awkward pauses translating to a generally quiet home theater experience.

Animation director Craig Hartin and writer-director-multiple-voices Dave Willis are among those engaging in production talk in "The Thing We Shot Wednesday Night." A concept sketch of the Insanoflex appears in the Art & Music Gallery. Abraham Lincoln travels through space and time whilst packing heat in the "Jon Schnepp 3D" origins short.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Aqua Teen arrives on DVD in a two-disc set, the cover of which adds the clause "For DVD" to the already-long title, leaving space for little but the extended 11-word title on the case's spine. The discs themselves opt for brevity over clarity, dubbing the film ATHFCMFFT.
As is somewhat expected of a film with a fervent, non-mainstream fanbase, Warner Brothers' DVD is loaded to the brim with bonuses, not all of which are worth the time they demand.

Easily missed in the Set Up menu, Disc 1's longest extra is a feature audio commentary by four people of varying involvement in the film's creation: Master Shake voice Dana Snyder, "Saturday Night Live" cast member (and Time Lincoln voice) Fred Armisen, Onion writer and "Aqua Teen" friend Todd Hanson (a "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" writer), and, for no apparent reason, recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Patti Smith (and later on, her son Jackson). The group provides a sometimes amusing series of observations and anecdotes, supplying very limited insight on either the movie or the show behind it while occasionally speaking over one another. It's only worth listening to if you want the company of strangers randomly talking over the movie while "watching" it with you.

Also on Disc 1 are the funny, epic-toned theatrical trailer (2:28), a child-narrated alternate trailer (1:32), and a sizzle reel (3:43) which slightly extends the first trailer.

A candid alternative to your typical praise-dishing EPK piece, "The Thing We Shot Wednesday Night" (26:15) is a fairly revealing fly-on-the-wall production documentary. It illustrates that the movie entailed more work than expected; it's just too bad that despite ample opportunity, little seems to have sharpened the script from its excerpted 2004 reading. The filmmakers and those contributing to the movie are seen talking about the process and obstacles faced. Rather than prepared interviews, we're treated to a bunch of guys (there's nary a female in sight) sitting around, talking and laughing about the movie and its various elements.

The "Art & Music Gallery" (16:23) is a lengthy slideshow of pencil sketches, model sheets, fully-colored backgrounds, and animation tests, set to a string of loud selections from the film's soundtrack.

Rounding out the first disc is "Jon Schnepp 3D" (2:55), a crudely-three-dimensional-computer-animated short that presents another possible origin for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, one which involves a space-trotting, gun-toting Abraham Lincoln.

After swiping his hypnotic new tire rims, Ignignokt the Mooninite taunts Carl in the "Deleted Movie." Shake talks up the upcoming Untitled Master Shake Project in the included Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Xmas Spectacular" a.k.a. "Deleted Scenes." R&B/dance group Cameo makes a cameo in this longest deleted scene.

Disc 2's main attraction is an 80-minute Deleted Movie, which is sort of to Aqua Teen what Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is to Anchorman. Only Deleted takes Aqua Teen's budget and adjusts it from "low" to "very, very low", essentially repeating the movie, only without mouth animation and with some alternate edits. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and two-channel stereo, this cut keeps movement to an absolute minimum, occasionally resorting to pencil animation, concept art, all-black backgrounds, and even a table read portion. It also incorporates the unsavory, discarded ideas that were featured in the "Aqua Teen" episode "Deleted Scenes" (more on that later) involving Carl having his new pimped-out car vandalized and later being sodomized by a broom and forced to work for the Mooninites. All in all, it still plays out in much the same way as the movie. I have trouble understanding why it was prepared (aside from having something to tout on the case sticker) and can't imagine any ATHF fan would want to watch this more than once, if they can even endure that directly after the film.

Next on Disc 2 are ten Fake Endings, which prior to the film's release were posted on Internet hotspots like YouTube as the real deal. Each running between 30 seconds and a minute and concluding with the beginning of genuine end credits, these short fakeouts range from clever to merely strange. A number of them are open-ended or slight variations on a fellow fake ending.

Deleted Scenes follow, but that's a slight misnomer. The section begins with "Star Studded Xmas Spectacular" (22:55), a December 2005 Season 4 episode of the "Aqua Teen" TV series more commonly known as "Deleted Scenes." Unusual for running twice as long as a standard installment, this episode finds Shake and Meatwad showing clips from an "Untitled Master Shake Project" that's supposed to open the following Memorial Day Weekend. As this episode was left off the show's Volume 5 DVD release, fans should welcome its inclusion here, and though the deleted movie renders some of the content superfluous, it's more fully animated here.

The remaining seven sequences are more traditional deletions, though all but one qualify as very slight extensions. That one (3:00) provides a cameo by the classic funk group Cameo who sing a song deemed "too funky." Among the brief extended bits offered are a Sergio Leone-inspired answering machine fight, a funny longer version of the college scene, and a barely-changed view of Meatwad's concert.

With Nashville Pussy supplying the sound, Master Shake is the lead singer in the music video for "Face Omelet." Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk interviews Shake voice Dana Snyder in the amusing "I Love Movies" promo. Crude CGI renderings of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force adorn the movie's Disc 1 main menu.

Nine items are found under Music Videos, though only the first qualifies as a polished song companion. It's the animated video for Nashville Pussy's "Face Omelet" (3:05), in which Master Shake sings and plays guitar, while Meatwad claims an interminable guitar solo in the middle.
Apple iTunes Apple iTunes
Apple iTunes Apple iTunes
Five Behind the Scenes pieces follow, depicting eclectic acts -- Nine Pound Hammer (2:50), Mastodon (3:05), Lobby Singers (3:25), Nashville Pussy (1:45), Cameo (3:45) -- recording soundtrack contributions in cramped, makeshift sound studios. Those opposed or apathetic to hard rock needn't bother with the rest; live performances from some promotional event for the movie are seen for Brass Castle's "Bookworm Resin" (2:25), Nine Pound Hammer's "Carl's Theme" (2:45), and Unearth's "The Chosen" (4:23).

Under Pete Promos, we find three final listings. "Dana Man-on-the-Street Promos" are four 30-second spots of Dana Snyder interviewing clueless moviegoers about the forthcoming film. Four more 30-second ads dubbed "Overheard Projector Presentation Promos" summon vintage PSAs and urge attendance for an Adult Swim movie without ever uttering the words "Aqua Teen." Last and funniest is something called "I Love Movies" (4:20) in which Danny Mothers, an inept, emotional, Spielberg-loving interviewer (played by Bob Odenkirk) asks hilariously irrelevant questions of Dana Snyder regarding the movie.

Disc 1's menus serve up animation from the 3D short plus sound bites and music from the film. Disc 2 takes a very different approach but ends up supplying more music and flat animation. Barely worth mentioning (though the DVD case and menu apparently felt otherwise) is Disc 2's Legal Page, which is bolstered by a 35-second aural exchange. There are no inserts inside the black dual Amaray keepcase.

Meatwad pulls Frylock and Master Shake in what is not likely the most efficient transportation method. Carl isn't pleased to see Shake wearing his special pants, but Shake's saving a leg for his neighbor.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As someone who can appreciate weird humor and has on occasion enjoyed "Aqua Teen Hunger Force", I was disappointed by the flat feature-length outing that is Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. Familiar with the premise and holding moderate hopes for a quirky fun expansion, I was letdown by the sophomoric approach taken here and can only imagine how lost and baffled the utterly unacquainted might be. Of course, the movie was made foremost for fans of the show and I've got no reason to think they won't like the unadulterated randomness here. But if there was at all a sensible plan to please the existing fanbase while wooing potential viewers, that idea goes severely unrealized.

Warner's two-disc DVD is pretty packed with extras, most of which aren't anything special. The uninformative commentary, cheap gimmicky alternate "deleted movie", and countless song recording sessions deliver less than promised, although some value is retained in the telling featurette, brief deleted scenes, fun trailers and promos. Plus, fans of the series will no doubt be glad to own its longest episode to date. However, unseasoned viewers are best sampling the series on Adult Swim before scouting out this flick.

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Reviewed August 10, 2007.



Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com/UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 2007 Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.