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DVD Review: Futurama – Into the Wild Green Yonder

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Everybody that I know that who watched The Simpsons has liked The Simpsons. Sure, some think that Family Guy is a better show, but they all like Homer and Marge, and they all give them their props. The same is true about people who have watched any episode or the newer straight-to-DVD releases of Futurama. I mean, what's not to love about a vulgar bending machine, a man transported through time, and a one-eyed sexy chick? Just like he did with The Simpsons, Matt Groening created a lovable set of characters, and put them in an interesting universe.

For those of you who don't know, Futurama is an American animated sitcom that ran on FOX from 1999 until 2003. The show was then canceled (as FOX is apt to do) and replaced with worse material. After being canned, the series moved to Adult Swim on Cartoon Network for a few years. The series is now shown right after South Park every night on Comedy Central. The DVDs of the seasons are also available, if you want to catch up on the story.

But, Futurama was not satisfied with being canned and no longer shown on TV. No, they wanted to do more with their characters, and so they went for the trail less often followed. Instead of trying to find some odd cable channel to show their stuff, Groening and staff decided to make four (as of now) straight-to-DVD releases. These movies continue where the series left off, but add new depth and twists along the way.

The series tells the story of Philip J. Fry (Billy West), a pizza delivery boy who is cryogenically frozen by accident on New Year's Eve, 2000, and thawed nearly 1000 years later. Once he is thawed, he joins the crew of an interplanetary delivery service and does menial tasks around the known universe (in one episode, they go beyond the universe). Besides this change in setting and time, the show follows a normal sitcom style.

Unlike most of the series, Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder does not tell the story of Fry on his own. Instead, it intermingles two people's stories, that of Fry and that of his love interest, Leela (Katey Sagal). Along the way, Wild Green Yonder tosses in the usual cast that had been featured in the series. Bender (John Di Maggio) is a crude robot, but he is Fry’s best friend. Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) is an annoying Asian chick who happens to be Leela’s best friend. Then there is Hermes (Phil LaMarr), your token black guy who also handles all of the money. Wild Green Yonder brings back your favorite characters and voice actors, and it also tosses in a bunch of cameo voices, like that of Snoop Dog.

Wild Green Yonder weaves a tale about denial, love, corruption, conspiracy theorists, and eco-terrorists. It starts off normally, and morphs into a situation where Fry and Leela must go head to head in a battle over the environment, each of them thinking that what they are doing is the right thing. Along the way, you get attacks on conspiracy nuts – I mean theorists – and the eco-groups that are out there (I am looking at you, Greenpeace). The overall story adds very little to the canon of Futurama, but it is still funny, and still a great movie to watch with friends.

I think that Wild Green Yonder is a good movie to watch when you are with friends or just bored at home. The story isn’t that great, but, face it, very few animated movies made from TV shows really have a great plot line. They just expand on what you are used to from the actual series, and hope that it translates well into the new format. It seems as though Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder was attempting to do just that, and they've succeeded.

Even though the story was not really there, the overall movie was pretty good. The punch lines, true to form, were actually hilarious and on cue. Rarely did the show have to resort to body humor or menial jokes. Sure, there were the Asian jokes, and Bender’s non-stop vulgarity, but the movie used these moments rarely and made sure that they were somewhat tasteful. Also, true to form, Scruffy, the unknown janitor, was downright hilarious.

While I personally liked Wild Green Yonder, I am somewhat worried about how it will be perceived by most people. See, the movie really doesn’t have any time, or make any attempt, to backtrack and cover up the included assumptions, inside jokes, and any real character development. No, it just hits the ground running and only looks back when it stumbles. This could be bad for most newcomers to the series, as they will be lost and totally confused without the background. Straight-to-DVD movies should do their best to get people into the series, as it helps to sell the episodes on DVD. Not giving the introductions keeps people from being interested in watching the show on TV; this causes you to kiss your ad revenues goodbye. By ignoring new people, as Groening did here, you are only harming your market value.

Overall, I think that Wild Green Yonder is a good 90-minute watch. The movie ate up the time, was never slow, and kept my attention during the whole run time. Additionally, the humor was what I had come to expect from the series, and it had me laughing during most of the film. With the sole exception of the character introductions, I think that this movie is a good fit for any person who likes humor, The Simpsons, or sci-fi. For any existing Futrurama fan, Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder is the perfect movie for you.

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About Robert M. Barga