One of the pillars of Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming is “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” an odd animated series about an order of fries, a milkshake, and a meatball who are friends and share a house in New Jersey. It’s an idea that can only have been conceived with the aid of marijuana, and I suspect it helps to have some on hand when you watch it, too.
Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad get into a variety of surreal adventures in their weekly 10-minute episodes (written and directed by the team of Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis), and while the series offers a lot of goofy, hipster laughs, seldom are the hijinks so grand as to suggest a feature-length film should be made. Considering the show is almost about nothing to begin with, why stretch it out to eight times its normal length and throw it on a big screen?
The film, titled “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters” (ah, too bad “Borat” beat you to it on the unwieldy-title-with-awkward-syntax thing!), is almost as nothing-based as its TV counterpart, with no appreciable improvement in the low-rent, home-style animation. It is also, perhaps predictably, an exhausting and tiresome movie. For every minute spent laughing there are 10 more full of non-laughs, with jokes that are almost funny, gags that almost surprise you, bits that almost work. Almost.
Actually, the movie’s opening sequence — a parody of the old-fashioned “let’s go out to the lobby and buy a snack” promotions — is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, maybe worth the ticket price all by itself. Things look promising immediately thereafter, too, as Frylock (voice of Carey Means), Master Shake (Dana Snyder), and Meatwad (Dave Willis) encounter a magical-powered Abraham Lincoln (Fred Armisen) who has a rocket made out of wood and who helps them evade federal authorities. And then things start to get REALLY bizarre!
The plot, such as it is, pertains to a piece of exercise equipment called the Insanoflex, which has a missing component that for some reason a lot of different people want to get a hold of. Also, the Aqua Teens themselves want to know where they came from and who their parents (or manufacturers) are, a quest which dovetails with the Insanoflex mission. Figuring into all this are a mad scientist on the Jersey Shore named Dr. Weird (C. Martin Croker), as well as some amorphous Plutonians named Oglethorpe (Andy Merrill) and Emory (Mike Schatz), not to mention some aliens who looks like low-tech characters from an ’80s arcade game (visual representations of which were the cause of that bomb scare in Boston a couple months ago).
At one point there is a live chicken on fire, running around the room like, well, a chicken on fire, and that’s when I thought: They have no idea what they’re doing here. Having run out of the stories, jokes, and casual comedy pieces that comprise the TV show, they’ve started just tossing out random particles of strangeness, hoping an easy-going audience will laugh because it’s weird rather than because it’s funny. That tactic can work occasionally, but a little of it goes a long way. Eighty minutes is too long for this. The 10-minute versions we get on TV are about right.
C- (1 hr., 25 min.; )