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Futurama: Bender's Big Score
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The first feature-length "Futurama" action epic, with three more adventures expected through 2009, finds the "Futurama" crew fighting to save Earth in an epic battle against nudist alien Internet scammers. It's nearly Christmas 3007 when evil naked aliens launch a cyber-attack on the Planet Express and make a shocking discovery: the secret of time travel, mysteriously tattooed on Fry's buttocks. Using their devious nudist software to control Bender, the aliens send him through history where he has run-ins with the likes of Al Gore, Coolio and Sarah Silverman.
Proving that you just can't keep a good animated series down, Bender's Big Score revives the Futurama crew in a full-length feature (reportedly, the first of four which will later be broken down into individual episodes for television broadcast) chock full of the satiric touches that made the Matt Groening series a cult favorite among sci-fi and animation fans. In true Futurama form, the plot of Big Score is proudly ridiculous: At its core, it's about alien telemarketers with a plan to steal Earth's most valuable historical objects, who use e-mail viruses to cripple Planet Express and take control of belligerent robot Bender; the latter carries out their scheme via a time-travel code tattooed on Fry's backside. This allows for all manner of subplots involving Fry's return to the 20 th century, romantic confusion between Fry and Leela (Katey Sagal), and a host of cameos ranging from Kwaanza-bot (Coolio) and Zapp Brannigan to Al Gore (voiced by the real former vice-president, who once again displays an offbeat sense of humor).
Bender's Big Score also features a staggering amount of extras that reflect the show's sense of playful anarchy. Most valuable to longtime fans is the feature-length commentary by Groening, writers Ken Keeler and David X. Cohen, director Dwayne Carey-Hill, and cast members Billy West (Fry), DiMaggio, and Phil LaMarr, which provides a wealth of information on the film's production as well as plenty of laughs from the voice actors. "Futurama Returns!" is a live comic book reading by the cast in front of an enthusiastic convention audience, while "A Terrifying Message from Al Gore" is a short animated promo featuring the ex-veep in an animated promo for his Inconvenient Truth documentary (Gore's commentary for this short is worth the DVD's sale price alone), and "Bite My Shiny Metal X" is an amusing, tongue-in-cheek lesson on the mathematics used to deliver the show's futuristic touches. Perhaps the oddest extra is a full-length episode of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad, a sitcom based around the bizarre title creature that will provoke equal amounts of laughter and exasperation. A small battery of deleted scenes, new character design sketches, and a five-minute promo shot for Comic-Con round out the extras. --Paul Gaita
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Such is the case with Futurama: Bender's Big Score. Have fans legitimate gripes with the latest installment in the Futurama universe? Yes. But the pros at least negate the cons.
I am satisfied with this straight-to-DVD movie for the following reasons: 1) The animation is well done. Though Fry, in particular, looks slightly different than the Fry we all remember (mostly around the eyes), it is very subtle, and all other characters look exactly as I remember them. 2) The writing is still very witty. With a plot that is incredibly convoluted, the writers were not afraid to take jabs at themselves and their plot, while at the same time coming up with new jokes and clever jabs (Bender is still in great form). 3) For Futurama fans, so many references are made to the original four seasons that this alone will keep a fan pleased. The writers did not forget their original four seasons and made many references to them, and even used this movie to explain certain things (how Fry's dog got fossilized, for instance). I appreciated the writer's attention to maintaining story continuity.
For these reasons, Futurama: Bender's Big Score is certainly no miss, and indeed, it satisfies where it needs to. That said, there are a number of legitimate complaints a fan can have:
1) In order to bring in so many characters from the original four seasons, the writers took away the power from certain characters--Nibbler and Robot Santa, for instance. In the few original episodes where Nibbler talked and we got to see his home planet, Nibbler, while cute, certainly had a powerful role--saving the world from evil brains, twice. In this movie, he suddenly begins to talk again but then becomes impotent. For the rest of the movie all he does is nag and is promptly ignored. Likewise, Robot Santa degenerates from an evil creature with a sarcastic wit to a sniveling cretin who whines because his naughty list was stolen by scammers. Even in the final battle, he does very little--Quanzabot fires a missile and Robot Santa just... cheers.
2) The plot is far too convoluted, which is actually something recognized by David X Cohen in the special features. It was too confusing and a little weak, which is natural with time-travel plots, as again Cohen admits. They set out to try to do a time-travel plot right but failed, only redeeming themselves with their tongue-in-cheek demeanor and self abasement. There are far too many holes in the story that just don't make sense yet (for instance, Bender is the one that put that tattoo on Fry's arse to begin with, right? And he got the tattoo to put on Fry's arse from... Fry's arse. So how did it get there to begin with?) Let's not forget that the reason the Roswell episode did so well (and won an Emmy), even though it was a time travel plot, was because they worked out all possible bits of circular story telling (except for the silly "Fry is his own grandpa" bit--which was the entire joke to begin with). The story could have been better actualized, but even for what it is, it is still a vehicle that carries many great gags.
3) The songs seemed forced, unnatural and... awkward. Even the song on Neptune, which others excused, seemed a little forced and unnatural. None of the songs in this movie can stand alongside any of the songs from the series. Additionally, the background score is often conspicuous and out of place (the strange repetitious howling music during the montage romance between Leela and Lars, for instance.)
These nit-picky complaints aside, the movie is, overall, quite satisfactory, with plenty of replay value and some good jokes in very Futurama-ish fashion. It is not as good as the series, but it is hard to be when fans have placed the series on a sort of untouchable pedestal and maintain an opinion of it that might be a little unfair. Even though I was slightly disappointed, I am looking forward to the next straight-to-DVD movies.
This is the 1st or 4 full length movies made during the time frame after Futurama was originally cancelled but before it was revived on Comedy Central.
There are some connections between the series and the other movies, but you can watch it individually and enjoy it. It might take a little while to get to know the characters, but even if you are not familiar with the characters, the jokes are still really good.
This is my favorite of the movies and of the series in general. It has all the classic elements of Futurama that I love and takes it to a new level. The story is smart, engaging, and pretty deep for a cartoon.
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