November 25th, 2022
Director: Matt Maiellaro & Dave Willis
Release Date: November 8th, 2022
Aqua Teen Hunger Force is one of my favorite television shows. When it premiered in 2000 on the newly formed Adult Swim, it shocked and confused the world with its absurd and bizarre humor that was frequently gory and scatological. It was not the first show of its kind- shows like Space Ghost Coast to Coast had been out years before, but this was the one that defined what Adult Swim would offer for the next two decades. It was the oldest show on the network and aired until 2015 (though for a few years it didn’t air regularly, and there were several rebrandings.) Generally the show’s tone stayed consistent and the quality was good throughout its run. Its non sequitur nature gave it a lot of flexibility to kill off and bring back characters, change the setting and have impossible non canonical plotlines. The 2007 film was, to put lightly, controversial due to a bomb scare caused by it’s marketing campaign and got mixed reviews.
The release of Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm took me completely by surprise- it had been rumored for years that a new movie or show was in production, but I figured it was just hearsay. While browsing the web one day, I saw it had been released and was available immediately to watch! So I immediately went to Vudu and rented it, not sure what to expect. I have mixed feelings regarding “revivals”: many of them retain their classic animation style, writing and voice actors. Some make major changes to modernize, like utilizing a different animation style which always throws me off. Aqua Teen, however, looks just like the classic show and retains almost all of its original cast. It is missing two things though: the first is the original Schooly D theme song, and the second is C. Martin Croker’s voice acting (he passed away in 2016.) Everything else remains relatively faithful to the tone and feel of the show, even seven years after it ended.
The plot takes place seven years after the show ends, with the Aqua Teens now separated and living vastly different lives. Frylock lives in a rundown SRO apartment in the city, working for the shopping giant “Amazin” in their IT department. Meatwad volunteers at an animal shelter and sleeps in it at night until kicked out, and Shake is living on the streets. Carl still lives next to the Aqua Teen’s old house- the neighborhood now being rapidly gentrified and the old house at risk of being demolished and developed. The film’s main conflict revolves around Frylock’s employer, the billionaire mogul of Amazin named Neil. He has several nefarious projects in development- starting with him creating a taller version of himself, and revealing that he kidnapped two entire alien races to work at his package plant to replace humans. Frylock is picked to help due to his intellect and to utilize the blue crystal embedded in his back, which has mysterious powers (that were never explained in the series.) Eventually, one of Neil’s projects gets way out of hand and it is up to the Aqua Teen’s to reunite and save the world once again.
Most of the criticism toward the first movie was that it stretched out a 12 minute per episode show into an 85 minute long movie. The same can be applied here; there is enough material to make a TV special that would be around 44 minutes long, but it overstays its welcome. Scenes go on too long and dialogue gets wordy- there is too much focus on Frylock’s storyline and too little with the other character’s. Shake and Meatwad get barely any screen time and while Carl gets slightly more, it’s just not enough. Frylock is the straight main of the trio and honestly the most boring of them all, yet this film focuses around him the most. This removes plenty of opportunities for Shake to mess things up, Carl to make gross commentary and Meatwad to act innocent and cute. Neil and his assistant Elmer feel like cheap knockoffs of Dr. Weird and Steve from the show- though I do praise Peter Serafinowicz for his sardonic portrayal of Neil. Also notable is the return of the Mooninites- who are just as hilarious as before and make a major appearance in this film.
Pacing is the greatest issue for the film, though. As mentioned earlier in the review, there are extended scenes of dialogue that should be cut and replaced with more relevant scenes. While a handful of scenes take place in the old Aqua Teen house, its fate is not revealed. It is hinted that a sequel will come out, which may clarify and expound upon the universe and if the Aqua Teens permanently regroup. I sure hope so- the series still has a lot of potential and I will be happy to see it continue if this film does well. I am a bit disappointed that more wasn’t done with this movie; it is simultaneously too long and too short. The creators have struggled in the past with making longer form content, and it doesn’t appear they have improved much since then. This is no knock against them; the show honestly was never meant to be made into a feature length film, and more for bite size adventures that don’t hold any canonical sense. But if this stimulates interest in the series again it may well be worth the cost of a bumpy, imperfect film.
I quite enjoyed watching this film and if you are a hardcore Aqua Teen fan or like Adult Swim shows, you’ll likely also enjoy it. If you are new to the series or don’t know what you are getting into, though, I’d recommend going back and watching a few episodes of the series to get a feel for it. It isn’t for everybody, but I find it quite nostalgic and fun.