Adult Swim's surreally witty Aqua Teen Hunger Force makes no sense at feature length
When leaving the screening of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, another critic turned with a bewildered expression and asked, 'Can you tell me what the hell that was all about?" Lacking a sufficient response, a shrug and an apology were the only replies. Many furrowed brows later, no better answer has bubbled forth. The Aqua Teen Hunger Force consists of three human-size, animated bits of fast food: Master Shake (voiced by Dana Snyder), a narcissistic milk shake with armless hands, Frylock (Carey Means), a levitating carton of french fries that shoots energy from his eyes; and Meatwad (co-writer and director Dave Willis), an amorphous reddish blob that absently leaves behind gooey smears. They're not teenagers and have absolutely nothing to do with water, but, being food products, they do boast some marginal relation to hunger.
As for the plot, try to keep up now: From Shake's attempts at sex education with Meatwad arise the question of where sexual partners come from, to which Shake replies that partners must be lured. The only way to lure women, of course, is with an excellent body, which in turn requires the use of . . . the Insanoflex. To fix Shake's mis-assembled Insanoflex they turn to the internet, and thereby alert two aliens and a mohawked robotic duck to their possession of said Insanoflex. Back on Earth, Frylock realizes that they're missing a critical computer chip for the Insanoflex, so they track down the manufacturer, Dr. Weird (C. Martin Croker), in southern New Jersey. After procuring the chip, their fat, bald everyman neighbor Carl (also voiced by Willis) tries the Insanoflex, only to be trapped inside it as it reassembles itself into a giant flailing robot that inflicts massive destruction while pumping European dance music. The aliens and their duck-billed robot join the Hunger Force on Earth, and they all enjoy a roller-coaster ride, while the dancing robot lays metallic eggs at an alarming rate. Believing that a robo-sexual alien with the German accent invented the destructive Insanoflex, they travel back in time to stop him. But, as he's actually borderline retarded and could not possibly have invented it, they head back to the future. They return to South Jersey for a climactic showdown with Dr. Weird, the aliens, the robotic duck, and a manipulative watermelon that wandered into the script, and somehow find time for repeated recordings of Phil Collins' 'In the Air Tonight." Got that?
It should now be clear that the plot serves merely as a wobbly platform for a series of jokes and sight gags, some overt and some for insiders. Mercifully, most of these jokes are actually funny, like the talkative and heinously boring robot duck offering the services of his 'weapons of mass distraction," or Willie Nelson, the shaving, serial-killing spider-monster from the attic, scurrying away when the Hunger Force's house collapses. Whether these jokes are enough, in quality and quantity, to sustain the meandering mess of a plot is debatable.
While the show has gathered a healthy cult following in recent years, the movie's early marketing landed with a far bigger splash in a now infamous bomb scare in January. As a promotional stunt, Adult Swim hung hundreds of electronic posters featuring a light-up Mooninite (ethnocentric two-dimensional pixilated beings indigenous to the-never mind) with a raised finger in 10 cities across America. While nine of these cities miraculously survived the campaign, Boston called in patrol cars, ambulances, fire trucks, the Department of Homeland Security, and a bomb squad to defuse the finger-taunting threat. A Boston highway closed down entirely, and the Coast Guard blockaded river traffic where the posters had been hung near bridges. Jim Samples became the ex-general manager of Cartoon Network over the fiasco, and the network agreed to a $2 million settlement with local governments and the Department of Homeland Security. Two hapless video artists, who made the egregious error of agreeing to hang the things for a whopping $300 each, were promptly charged with felonies and locked away. Where would America be without the Department of Homeland Security?
In 15-minute TV episodes, the Hunger Force prowl a landscape of above-ground pools, graffiti, skillets, and beer guts, offering a raised-eyebrow look at suburban decay and a culture of placid vapidity. The clips are brief, eccentric, and hilarious, a formula that just didn't translate well to the big screen. What the hell is it all about? If you still have to ask, it's probably not for you.