Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bender's a hit

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

I loved Matt Groening's other animation series "Futurama" and was sorry to see its cancellation by FOX in 2003. The news the series has returned through four direct-to-DVD movies is cause for celebration as the first film, "Bender's Big Score," is a very funny film.

If you've missed "Futurama" during its original television run from 1999 to 2003, then the film might seem a bit confusing. What you need to know is the future is just about as messed up as 2008 is and our heroes of an interplanetary delivery service are no more enlightened than we are hey, the preserved living head of Richard Nixon is the president of the Earth in the future.

The action in this film centers around three aliens who've discovered the secret of time travel and use Bender the amoral robot to go back in time to loot the Earth. There are alien nudists, gold-plated Death Stars and Al Gore all in the film who could want more?

The vocal performances from Billy West, Katey Sagal and Joe DiMaggio, among others, are stellar as usual and the visual look of the production is a tad richer than the original series.

The making of this film actually affected the future -- the producers say it lowered carbon emission. For more information log onto www.newscorp.com/energy.

Wayside: The Movie

For many years the folks at Nickelodeon have been industry leaders in producing animated series for children and that adults can watch as well. "Spongebob Squarepants" and "Fairly Odd Parents" are two recent examples of the Nick lineup which also includes shows such as "Ren and Stimpy," "Rugrats" and "Hey Arnold."

"Wayside" will not be remembered among the best of the Nick's offerings if this 49-minute "movie" is any indication. Based on a series of children's books, the film tells the story of Todd, a new student to the confused and confusing Wayside School. The contractor built the school incorrectly so that the 30 classrooms form 30 stories.

Todd (with a voice provided by Michael Cera from "Superbad") seems like a sensible kid who is completely unnerved by the randomness of his new school. The principal is in love with his microphone. The students use a window instead of a door. Cows are in the hallways partying the insulation out of the walls.

It's Todd's hope that he will make sense of all of the silliness.

The problem is the production simply isn't funny. While Todd is a sympathetic character, no else is and in fact they are shrill and annoying.

The look of the characters has no style and the animation attempts at times to reach the looniness of a "Ren and Stimpy" with some extreme poses and expressions, but it fails to reach those inspired heights. The use of gross-out humor, while all the norm these days, is very gratuitous.

Perhaps young kids would find this production entertaining, but be sure to excuse yourself from the room.

For more information, log onto www.paramount.com/ homeentertainment.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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