Directed by: Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis
Starring: Dana Snyder, Dave Willis, Carey Means, Andy Merrill
No, it’s not a matter of not “getting” Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. I “get” it. I know that this wretchedly made juvenilia is supposed to be funny precisely because it is wretchedly made juvenilia. That’s the joke. It’s pretty much all the joke there is. And it’s a joke that wears out its welcome in 10 minutes or less; though fans will probably disagree. Yes, I get that it’s absurd to have a show or movie based around the adventures of an ill-tempered container of French fries, a narcissistic milkshake and a brain-dead lump of meat. (In some quarters this is taken for surrealism on the level of Luis Buñuel, which says more about those quarters than it does about surrealism.) And yes, I also get that a plot about saving the world from certain destruction by a villainous exercise machine is bizarre, but so what? Is it really the height of satirical humor? Is it really even all that different or more hip than saving the world from a robotic bowler hat as in Meet the Robinsons (another recently released animated affair)?
I’d never seen an episode of the cult Adult Swim TV show that spawned this feature-length version, and I’m disinclined to do so now. For the uninitiated, I’ll explain (though it may not help) that Aqua Teen Hunger Force lands somewhere in between the “Strong Bad” Internet animations and South Park. That’s to say it’s not as mind-numbingly one-note as the former (though God knows it tries), and yet it’s totally lacking in the pop-culture satire of the latter. I suspect that Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis (the culprits responsible for all this) would like to think otherwise, since they so obviously want their creation to be like South Park. For all their efforts, the humor that results is less like South Park than like the “pass me that bong” inanity of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000—only with less focus.
Part of the problem—aside from the notion that throwing out a bunch of pop-culture references is the same thing as satirizing them (see Date Movie (2006), Epic Movie (2007) etc.)—is that Messrs. Maiellero and Willis never met a gag (good or bad) that they couldn’t run into the ground. As a result, we don’t just get the not-all-that-funny-to-begin-with bit where a robot (voiced by Maiellaro) attempts conjugal relations with an inanimate object once, we get it a half dozen times. The same is true of the random guest appearance (animated) of Rush drummer Neil Peart as the drummer/sidekick of Water Melon (voiced by Saturday Night Live‘s Chris Kattan). This South Park rip (remember the creature with a leg consisting of TV’s Patrick Duffy?) is mildly amusing as a throwaway gag, but endlessly repeated, the throwaway quality disappears and you’re left with forced oddness.
That’s not to say that Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (could the desire to cash in on Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhtan be more painfully obvious?) is completely devoid of laughs. It’s not. There’s an opening bit where singing and dancing concession items politely requesting silence during the movie are overtaken by metal band Mastodon making no bones about the fate awaiting uncooperative and unpleasant patrons, singing a song called “I’ll Cut You with a Linoleum Knife.” It’s not only the funniest thing I’ve seen this year, but ought to precede every screening of every movie ever made.
There are similarly funny gags involving a time-traveling Abe Lincoln (voiced by Fred Armisen) and a great reference to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). Trick is these are spread out over a tedious 86-minutes worth of utterly random movie. It’s one thing to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. It’s another to throw things at the wall and not care whether or not they stick, which is the case here. The faithful will doubtless disagree. Rated R for crude and sexual humor, violent images and language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke