TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS (2007)
Directors: Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis
If you're a fan of late-night television, then you may or may not have heard of Adult Swim. First launched by Cartoon Network with the help of Williams Street Productions on September 2, 2001, Adult Swim was crafted to present viewers with adult-oriented animation with an incredibly irreverent slant. And although Adult Swim's style has evolved over the years, two things have remained the same since its inception. One is its brazen attitude, and the other is its longest-running show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Though the airing of its first episode actually predates the birth of Adult Swim by nearly a year, the show has become an integral part of the late-night programming block's success. The show initially began with simple goofball humor, but as time went on, it underwent its own evolution, branching exclusively into the realms of abstract and surrealistic humor, almost to the point of full-blown absurdity. The show has remained popular with Adult Swim fans over the years, and Williams Street apparently felt brave enough to turn their silly little cartoon into a feature film. While it played in only 877 theaters and made nearly no impact on the box office at all, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters (yes, that's the full title) did manage to stay true to itself by being one of the most downright insane movies ever released.
This is the point in the review where I would normally do a plot summary. But the thing is, this movie doesn't have much of a plot. It's mostly just about sticking its characters in as many wacky situations as it possibly can. For the sake of appearances, I'm going to try and summarize all this madness. The movie primarily focuses on the three anthropomorphic fast food items that comprise the Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Master Shake (Dana Snyder), an narcissistic, selfish, smart-ass milkshake; Frylock (Carey Means), an intelligent, scientifically-minded container of French fries; and Meatwad (Dave Willis), a childlike meatball whose IQ is probably in the single digits.
After the trio finish assembling a workout machine called the Insanoflex, the machine grows to immense proportions and starts rampaging through the New Jersey city they call home, using their white trash neighbor Carl (Dave Willis) as its power source. Their attempts to stop it not only bring them into an uneasy alliance with several of their recurring nemeses, but eventually direct them down a path that leads to the knowledge of their own creation. Or something like that.
I honestly don't know where to begin with this review. Everything about this movie, from its silly Borat-esque title to every second of its 85-minute running time, is utter lunacy. Most movies adapted from television shows don't quite retain 100% of the feel of the source material, but the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie does, to the point that it doesn't even feel like a movie at all. While adaptations like Beavis & Butt-head Do America and South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut made attempts to go above and beyond the limitations imposed upon their source material, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie is pretty much an episode of the show that happened to acquire a theatrical release. You could probably compare it to the two Jackass movies, in that they're just extended, uncensored episodes of the show that inspired them. And like the Jackass franchise, the humor in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie is hit or miss at times. But for the most part, it's inspired insanity that is hilarious, although it is ultimately an acquired taste as well.
The animation looks exactly like it does on the show, except for the rare occasion of half-assed CGI work. Things look pretty cheap, but since the movie only had a budget of 750,000 dollars, that's to be expected. But the low-rent look and feel of the animation actually adds to the movie's charm. It's almost refreshing to see an animated movie that isn't some big-budgeted, over-polished production like Pixar's body of work. Don't get me wrong, I like Pixar and their movies, but there's something to be said for independent animation as well.
But where the movie primarily exceeds is in both its writing and its voice performers. The script, penned by Aqua Teen Hunger Force creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, is comedic psychosis on a grand scale. Apparently working under the assumption that you don't need to make any sort of sense to be funny, Maiellaro and Willis have crafted a movie that runs on pure stream of consciousness. I wouldn't be surprised if Maiellaro and Willis had no idea at all what they wanted to do with the movie before they started working on it, and just wrote down every random thing that came to mind before cobbling all their ideas together into what they called a script. (For example, how many movies can say they open with thrash metal band Mastodon getting involved in a parody of that old "Let's All Go to the Lobby" pre-movie cartoon?) Just like the show, things simply happen for no real reason, but the randomness of it all is what makes it so funny. The script is also heavily dialogue-driven, so Maiellaro and Willis make sure to write dialogue that is absolutely hilarious. I don't know how many bits of dialogue could be quoted repeatedly, but it's most certainly funny.
And then there's the cast, who operate with a snappy comedic timing. The eight main performers Willis, Maiellaro, Dana Snyder, Carey Means, Andy Merrill, Mike Schatz, C. Martin Croker, and Chris Ward (credited as "mc chris") have been playing these characters since the beginning, and each of them do a great job. They give an irreverent life to their characters, making each of them likeable and entertaining in their own ways. The cameos from B-movie legend Bruce Campbell, Rush drummer Neil Peart, and Saturday Night Live alumni Chris Kattan, Tina Fey, and Fred Armisen are all hilarious as well, each of them giving fun performances in their small roles.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure how I was going to critique this movie. I say that because I don't know if I can really recommend it to anyone who isn't already a devoted fan of the show. If you dislike the show, or if you just don't "get it," then you'll probably skip the movie. Even if you're just a casual, "once-in-a-while" fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the movie might not be for you. But if you're hopelessly addicted to the absurd adventures of the Aqua Teens, then the movie will be right up your alley. Though the premise lends itself more to the quick ten-minute episodes that air on Adult Swim, the movie still manages to keep a frenetic energy that makes it entertaining even when it starts running out of gas. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters is an absolutely irreverent, borderline schizophrenic piece of silliness. Nothing about it resembles coherency or sanity, but if you drink deeply from the Adult Swim cup, then you'll probably get a kick out of it. I'll give it three and a half stars, and any movie or television show featuring characters like the Mooninites is just fine by me.
Final Rating: ***½