Friday, May 25, 2007
In Theaters: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
It took over a month for AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS to reach Columbia, Missouri's one art-house theater, which, having one screen, booked it for about a week. In a college town, unquestionably full of Adult Swim fans. I went to the penultimate showing on Wednesday night, which was a sell-out. I guess what I'm trying to say is, distribution was a problem. I hope this hasn't been the case for the rest of the country. Anyway, I've been waiting a long time for this film, and it's every bit as disorienting as it should be. The film (which I will call ATHFCMFFT for purposes of convenience) captures the surrealist vibe and general pointlessness of the 15-minute TV series while somehow managing to eventfully fill 86 minutes. The animation is cheap and the story doesn't even try to hang together, but neither of those things matter. It's funny and entertaining and imaginative in a stoner kind of way.
The Aqua Teen Hunger Force consists of three giant-sized living food objects: Frylock, an intellectual box of french fries (voice of Carey Means), Master Shake, a giant milkshake and utter, utter asshole (Dana Snyder), and Meatwad, a childlike wad of meat (Dave Willis, the film's co-writer/director.) They are ostensibly superheroes or crime solvers of some kind, but generally spend most of their time hanging out in their house in Jersey next door to professional loser Carl (also Willis). The main thread of the film, such as it is, revolves around the Insano-Flex, a highly advanced exercise machine of unknown origin that the Aqua Teens come into possession of somehow. As they try to assemble the device, which requires fetching a part from the lab of the mysterious Dr. Weird (C. Martin Croker), two Plutonians (Andy Merrill and Mike Schatz) join up with the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future (Matt Maiellaro, the other co-writer/director), a robot whose job consists of delivering incoherent stories that dubiously explain certain events, to try and steal the device, which the Cybernetic Ghost etc. says that one of the Plutonians ends up inventing in the future. Frylock, Shake, and Meatwad get the machine put together, and Carl tests it out, at which point the machine turns into a giant exercise robot that begins running amok downtown with Carl trapped inside, doing endless reps to inane club music. All of this is watched over by the mysterious Walter Melon (Chris Kattan), a talking slice of watermelon who lives inside a watermelon with his partner, drummer Neil Peart of Rush (himself.) Somehow this all ends up involving the secret origin of the Aqua Teens, as well as Ignignokt and Err (Willis and Maiellaro again), the Mooninites, Atari-style space aliens who spend most of their time engaging in petty theft, and the guys featured in those Lite Brite devices that were mistaken for WMDs in Boston a while back.
So, yeah. A lot of goofy shit happens, none of it really hanging together beyond a basic stream-of-consciousness association. Which, really, is not a problem, as the film is clearly not trying to have things hang together, and indeed, not making sense becomes the point of the enterprise after a while. What matters is that it's funny. Not entirely consistently so- an opening animation spoofing the old "Let's Go Out To The Lobby" featurette as well as aggressively laying out the rules of conduct is so hilarious (and let's face it, NECESSARY) that it kind of dwarfs some of what comes after (as a side note, it should become the new standard for movie theaters instead of the wimpier "Don't Ruin The Movie By Adding Your Own Soundtrack" spots.) There's a stretch of the film near a roller coaster that goes on a bit. Fortunately, even when it isn't hilarious, the movie is amusing- when I wasn't laughing, I still had a grin on my face from all the weirdness. The movie, like the show, has an infectious quality in its combination of crudeness and surrealism.
Of course, it helps to already be a fan. Most of the characters are familiar faces, and the "story" manages to involve quite a few cameos by lesser guest monsters from the show's past. In many ways this feels like a feature-length version of the TV show, though that doesn't feel like a criticism this time around. It actually feels good just to spend more time in the world the series has created, and at the same time the scope has been extended just a bit to let us see more. Of course, I suppose the only way to really make the movie feel different from the show would be to give it a strong, coherent storyline, and that would just be missing the point.
ATHFCMFFT, if you can still catch it anywhere, is worth a ticket; it probably won't lose a lot on video, but there's something to be said for seeing it with a crowd of like-minded people. (Before the screening I saw, the Ragtag's owner asked if we would prefer to see the film or have a discussion about seventies hairstyles. It was a tough decision.) I had my doubts about the project when I heard about it, yet at the same time there's a part of me that's wanted this to happen for a while. As such I am satisfied. My only regret is that anyone reading this probably already knows whether this kind of movie is for them anyway.
Written and Directed by Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro