- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by David Medsker
hile fans of the cancelled Fox series “Futurama” surely shouted “Good news, everyone!” when they learned that the show would be returning in the form of four straight-to-DVD movies, they would be wise to temper their expectations a tad before viewing “Bender’s Big Score,” and it is not for the reason you might suspect. The problem isn’t layoff fatigue, but rather that the movie tries way too hard to tie in as many plots from the TV series as possible to create one monster story. The end result is indeed ambitious, but needlessly complicated.
The story begins with the Planet Express crew making a delivery to the nude beach planet, where they are solicited by Nudar, who obtains the crew’s email addresses and proceeds to pummel them with spam. Each member of the crew falls for one spam email or another, culminating with Professor Farnsworth inadvertently signing the deed to Planet Express headquarters over to Nudar and his cronies. Soon, Nudar discovers that Fry has a tattoo on his butt of Bender, and within that tattoo is a binary code that, when read aloud, produces a one-way wormhole into the past. Nudar decides to use the portal to steal the world’s riches, sending Bender, infected with a spam virus and under Nudar’s control, to do his dirty work.
Yes, you read that right: the entire plot is put into motion by forcing every member of the Planet Express crew to be dumb enough to fall for an email scam, a notion that is both implausible and severely dated. (Was this a leftover joke from the TV series?) As clever as the rest of the story is – and needlessly complicated or not, it is extremely clever – it’s hard to get past the fact that it all started because they were too dumb to resist an email scam. Also, did the story really require the services of Santa Claus (though not voiced by John Goodman), the Harlem Globetrotters, Leela’s parents, Fry’s dog, Fry’s brother, and Talking Nibbler (as opposed to Mumbling Carnivore Nibbler)? Many of the cameos, each one a nod to an episode of the TV show, feel shoehorned into the plot, especially when the main thrust of the plot, which involves trip upon trip back in time, was more than enough to sustain the story.
On the other hand, you have to give the makers of “Futurama” credit for knowing full well that they are not about to expand their fan base by leaps and bounds with these DVD releases, so they flip any potential newcomers a pre-emptive middle finger by making their first movie a giant in-joke. How very “Futurama.” It bodes well that the majority of the original crew is back together making these movies, but it would behoove them to aim for something less cluttered with the next installment.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
As straight-to-DVD releases go, this one’s loaded with extras, beginning with a hilarious commentary featuring both behind-the-scenes guys and voice talent (Billy West and John DiMaggio are in full impressions mode). There are some standard animation extras like deleted storyboard scenes, character sketches and the original script, but the big bonus for fans will be the 20-minute episode of “Everybody Loves Hypnotoad,” which consists primarily of Hypnotoad droning you into submission. Go through it at double speed, because there are some things within the “episode” worth checking out. All glory to the Hypnotoad.