FUTURAMA: VOLUME FIVE
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Matt Groening’s cult grown-up cartoon “Futurama” has been resurrected from the ashes of FOX networks to Comedy Central. After being kept on life-support with several direct-to-DVD movies, “Futurama” enters its (sort of) fifth season on cable with irreverent and self-referential stories of time travel, robot marriage, evolution and jokes about the iPhone.
WHAT I LIKED
I never watched “Futurama” when it aired on FOX, and I wasn’t wild about the direct-to-DVD movies (presumably because I never watched it much before seeing these), so the fifth volume of the series was a tough sell on me. But after getting over the initial return hump, I found a lot to enjoy about the show.
It’s not as smart, clever or subtle as “The Simpsons,” but there’s a lot of charm in here, once you get to know the characters. The backdrop of an animated future world allows the show to delve into areas that a live-action show simply couldn’t go. This allows the series to be sillier and more out-of-the-box.
In particular, the best episodes featured stories that were completely off-base, like cats that take over the world, bungled alien invasions and a cascading story of mixed identities when the crew finds a way to switch minds and bodies.
Even the stories that have a peripheral social element in them are interesting. For example, the creation/evolution debate is turned on its ear when the crew encounters a race of evolved robots in “A Clockwork Origin.” And even on a more personal level, it was neat to see Bender’s origins in “Lethal Inspection.
This may have not been the best time to start watching “Futurama,” but it worked to make me interested in the show… much more than the direct-to-DVD movies did.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The biggest stumbling block this season faced was how to get its footing on a new network after several years’ hiatus. At first, “Futurama” tried to be irreverent and socially relevant like “South Park” (at least up to episodes 200/201 of that series). However, without the week-long production schedule that “South Park” enjoys, the episodes would air so late after the event or buzz that it became counterproductive. Similarly, the “Futurama” gang just can’t do political satire as well as “South Park” and ends up pushing an agenda, which really isn’t fun to watch. This is why the later episodes in this season are far superior.
Like the other Matt Groening shows, “Futurama: Volume 5” includes full-length commentaries on all episodes. There’s also a slate of deleted scenes and the featurettes “Behind the Fungus: Makin’ a Hit Song” and “Previously on Futurama.”
Bender gets his first (and only) music video “Bend It Like Bender,” and Fry shares his original comic book video “The Adventures of Delivery-Boy Man.” Finally, the audience is invited to a table read of the episode “The Prisoner of Benda.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of “Futurama” who are rejoicing for its return.