Futurama: Bender's Big Score - DVD review
When I first heard that Family Guy was returning to the airwaves, I was wondering if/when other cancelled Fox animated shows would similarly rise from the dead. Then I heard Futurama was returning to Comedy Central (with a brief stop on DVD beforehand). Futurama can best be described as The Simpsons for sci-fi/fantasy fans (which makes sense consider that Matt Groening created both and uses the same animation style for both). I then thanked the gods of comedy for returning this gem.
The plan for Futurama is to release four direct-to-DVD movies which would make up a complete season of 16 half-hour episodes. "Bender's Big Score" is the first release and consists of the first four episodes (although I hear the individual episodes will contain extra footage not in the DVD release when they are eventually broadcast. How's that for a reversal of precedent?).
The plot is as follows: after learning that they were saved from cancellation from the evil and stupid Box Network, the familiar team of Fry, Bender, Leela, Amy, Hermes, Zoidberg, and Professor Farnsworth go to a nude beach planet for a delivery. While there, they get tricked into giving information to alien telemarketers. The telemarketers use this information to take over Planet Express. They even corrupt Bender's programming with a virus download so he obeys only them.
However, it turns out that the scammers can detect information. With this ability, they find the secret to time travel tattooed on Fry's butt (hidden in a picture of Bender). By speaking the formula of 1's and 0's on the tattoo, it makes a time sphere appear that can take anybody who enters it anywhere in space and time. Even worse, the spheres allow for any paradoxes that occur from time-traveling so we learn of the lives of various alternate Frys and Benders.
This is the part where the fun begins. The story is a celebration of virtually everything that has happened in the four seasons of the original series and there are many winks that fans will find familiar (non-fans will likely not notice and enjoy the show anyway). As a fan, I noticed the references and absolutely loved them.
Time travel has been done in the series before, but never at this complex a level. Trying to keep track of all the paradoxes and references would make a person dizzy. I tried to just sit back and enjoy them.
The highlights I enjoyed included: the return of Fry's ex-girlfriend Michelle (voiced by Sarah Silverman), an appearance by Professor Farnsworth's cloned son Cubert, the Harlem Globetrotters, Al Gore (playing a character remarkably similar to the one that recently appeared on 30 Rock), the Nibblonians, Fry's faithful dog Seymour (who had such a sad story in the original series that I'm glad Fry had a chance to meet him again), Fry's brother and namesake nephew (whom Fry never met in the original series. Remember I mentioned how the spheres allow for paradoxes?), the Santa Robot, Hannukah Zombie (voiced by Mark Hamill) and Kwanzaa-bot (voiced by Coolio),
The plot itself was quite silly, but I couldn't help but get excited when the Planet Express ship and a fleet of various vessels seen in the run of the series faced off against a fleet of solid gold Death Stars to reclaim the Earth.
The story also had sub-plots involving Hermes getting his head cut off and Leela dating a man she meets on the nudist planet (much to Fry's chagrin). The latter plot point becomes more important later in the story, but the main story with the incessant time travel is the most fun.
In short, I highly recommend this DVD. If you're a fan, you'll love it. If you're not, then you'll like it and want to buy the first four seasons on DVD (or check back here on Monday morning. *wink wink*). After watching them, you'll love it.