Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Some movies just make you wonder how in hell they were ever actually greenlighted, made, and distributed to the same theaters that bring you multimillion-dollar mainstream films. This, I hasten to add, is not always a question one asks in annoyance. Occasionally you get a film so defiantly odd and cultish — a film that was never likely to make big bucks, but was produced and heavily marketed anyway — that you’re sort of glad someone still bothers to make movies like that instead of the usual witless remakes, or family comedies, or remakes of family comedies. Last fall’s Tenacious D movie was one of those oddballs, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters is another.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force began life as a series of brief, nonsensical cartoons aired on Adult Swim, the nighttime block of Cartoon Network programming for twentysomethings and stoners. The protagonists are Frylock, a box of French fries; Master Shake, a milkshake; and Meatwad, a blob of meat. Random things happen to or around them for eleven minutes or so, sometimes involving their crude alpha-male neighbor Carl. The movie is no less random but does actually attempt to follow a plot. I can probably do no better than this amusingly bland paragraph from Wikipedia’s page on the film: “The film centers around the ‘Insane-o-flex,’ a piece of exercise equipment that should never under any circumstances be assembled. The Aqua Teens ignore these warnings and attempt to assemble it anyway, while the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future teams up with the Plutonians to stop them.” There’s more.

I was never a huge ATHF fan; I’ve caught it a few times, but you probably have to be in the right mood or the right altered state of mind. By sticking to a basic plot — in which the Insane-o-flex goes out of control — creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis can use the standard ATHF explosions of randomness as the trimmings on a very weird but still functional tree. The movie even offers an origin story for the Aqua Teens, involving (gasp!) a fourth Aqua Teen, Chicken Biddle, a chicken nugget voiced by Bruce Campbell. (Okay, this man is now officially the hardest-working actor in Hollywood.) Various supporting characters from the show, including the nefarious Dr. Weird and the Mooninites (whose Lite-Brite countenance famously got the twitchy city of Boston in such a dither last January), drift in and out of the proceedings.

As with the South Park movie, there are times during the ATHF movie when the joke is that you’re actually seeing what you’re seeing on a theater screen. The film’s premise and characters alone guarantee its status as one of the boldest experiments in surrealism ever to grace 877 screens nationwide, but when it begins with a parody of those dancing-refreshments PSAs (“Please remain quiet during the show” and all that) that quickly turns raunchy and hilariously hostile (“Babies do not belong here! Take your seed outside! Run it over with your car!”) and goes on to introduce a slice of watermelon named Walter Melon, whose henchman appears to be Rush drummer Neil Peart, or when Meatwad transforms himself into a building in order to be tall enough to get onto a rollercoaster, or when a time-travelling version of Abe Lincoln brings Frylock back to life … Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, this casual viewer of the ATHF show enjoyed the movie, though I don’t know that it’s safe to recommend to the non-likeminded. I don’t think, however, that you need to have seen every episode to appreciate its particular slapheaded charms; you just need an appetite for episodic insanity in the service of a knowingly daft story. That used to be the late Kurt Vonnegut’s stock in trade, as I recall, though his work was (rightly) viewed as fine literature while ATHF has been (wrongly) pegged as hipster crap — it’s been getting killed by the critics, of course. As a work of American entertainment, it’s certainly original, often funny, and occasionally even inspired. Monty Python used to be lionized for just such stuff, but I suppose most of the nation’s critics only feel secure praising rampant surrealism when it comes with a British accent.

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Explore posts in the same categories: animation, comedy, cult

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