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Feature


A nudist alien species of Internet scammers steal Planet Express and put Bender the robot under their control. When it is discovered that the secret to time travel has been grafted to Fry’s ass, the evil nudist order Bender repeatedly to the past to steal all the most valuable things in world history. Meanwhile, Leela the Cyclops finally finds her true love, much to the lovesick Fry’s chagrin, and Hermes the bureaucrat literally loses his head.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score
Futurama was most likely my favourite prime time animated show. It was better than Fish Police, or good shows like Family Guy, maybe even great shows like Home Movies. I’d even risk it all and say that it rivalled The Simpsons at its peak. The series had plenty of laughs, original and well rounded characters, and more heart than an overweight and diabetic Diplodocus. There were even two episodes that brought honest to God tears to my eyes, both kinds—the happy kind and the sad kind (I bet fans could guess which two episodes I’m referring to). I was pretty depressed when the show was cancelled in its forth season, but was happy to buy the DVD collections, and watch countless reruns on Adult Swim.

So like Family Guy, Futurama’s good rerun ratings and disc sales finally warranted a return in the form of a straight to video movie, and like the Family Guy and The Simpsons movies, Bender’s Big Score is hit and miss. It doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the original episodes, but overall it’s a more satisfying concoction than those others. Just like the Family Guy Star Wars special and The Simpsons Movie, this one spends a little too much time referencing the better jokes from previous seasons, and doing their best to get cheers out of hard-core fans. The film is also sort of episodic, though not so obviously made up of three episodes as the Family Guy’s feature length outing. Bender’s Big Score’s best plot elements actually reappear throughout the film.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score
However, after about thirty minutes of spinning its wheels with beheaded Hermes jokes the film picks up, and though it recycles themes from past episodes, the twists are fun, and the jokes move from broad slapstick to character driven. Let’s not be prudes here, nudity, mutilation, cursing, bodily functions, and senile old people are all funny, but they don’t make for classic humour anymore, and the series isn’t my favourite because of its more sophomoric gags (I’ve got plenty of other favourite shows that fill that slot).

Around the beginning of the third act that old Futurama heart starts to bleed through, and after a few patented and touching musical montages, a familiar lump begins to rise in my throat. The most poignant moments arise from the feature’s more inspired satire, specifically the second act introduction of a Terminator spoof, which rightfully points out the paradoxes of time travel, meaning the sillier plot elements aren’t just throw-aways. And as if a satisfying finale curtain wasn’t enough, the creators end the whole thing on a universe-shattering cliff-hanger, ensuring that we’ll all be buying the next of these four feature-length adventures, despite the slow start.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Video


Yay! Futurama in widescreen! Everything here is clean and clear, as should be expected from a recent animated feature with digital colouring and effects. Colours are bright and rich, with only minor compression noise to be found in some brighter reds. Lines are crisp without the overt edge enhancement that plagues some more poorly reproduced animated films on DVD. There are a few small cases of the jaggies throughout, but it’s pretty hard to notice. The real issue in the screen caps seems to be compression noise, which I'm going to attribute to the fact that my screener copy didn't like being in my computer, because it looked fine on screen. Despite Fox’s innate fear of piracy, my copy’s watermarking was only occasional, and thankfully changed its location based on the onscreen action.

Audio


Yay! Futurama in Dolby Digital 5.1! Finally we can all experience the familiar music, voices, and sound effects of the world of tomorrow in discrete digital sound. After five years off the job all these amazing voice actors sound exactly the same and the score is familiar without being repetitive. The battle scenes towards the end of the film are almost worthy of Star Wars in audio aggression and spacious surround. The mix is never too busy, and the LFE track is impressive without overdoing it. There is nothing to realistically complain about sound-wise, though I wouldn’t quite consider the disc worthy of demo status.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Extras


The fact that three more of these films are apparently on the way makes this disc’s medium level extras a little easier to swallow. I’d prefer some kind of behind the scenes featurette with creator and actor interviews, or perhaps some live footage from this year’s Comic-Con panel, but a solid commentary track, a comic book reading, some deleted storyboard scenes, and a few other scraps satisfy for the time being.

As a fan I’ve actually watched every single episode of the original series with the commentary track activated, and I’ve never been bored. The Futurama tracks rival even the Simpsons tracks for overall jam-packedness. This feature-length track—featuring producers, a director, and a load of cast members—does not disappoint. The only occasional problem with the track is that everyone involved gets a little too excited and start to overlap each other’s thoughts. Still, it’s good to have you guys back.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score
First following the commentary is a live comic book reading from a few members of the cast as taped at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. It might’ve been nice to have an alternate angle of the cast at the table reading, but the comic itself is an amusing little retell of the show’s rocky history, as told through the eyes of its characters, and the audience laughter is infectious. The audio was a little faster than the video on my check disc, unfortunately, something that will hopefully be cleared up around the official release.

Next up is a full, twenty-two minute episode of Everyone Loves Hypnotoad. You read that right, twenty-two minutes of that toad with the swirling eyes accompanied by that familiar buzzing sound. There are even commercial breaks, a laugh track, and stereotypical sit-com establishing shots between ‘scenes’. I thought it would get old, but it just didn’t.

‘A Terrifying Message from Al Gore’ is a brief Youtube clip made to promote the release of An Inconvenient Truth last year. The animation’s a little cut rate, but it’s funny, and the accompanying video commentary is funny too) even though it’s kind of silly to run a video commentary track for a one minute preview. Al Gore also features prominently in the feature film.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score
‘Bite My Shiny Metal X’ is a Futurama based math lecture with award winning professor Sarah Greenwald. Greenwald has been teaching math by way of Futurama and The Simpsons for apparently years now, and the shows creators decided it was time to return the favour. The featurette will dumbfound some fans, as it really is a math lecture, and contains few jokes, but even I, a math-illiterate was amused.

The deleted scenes are presented in rough, storyboard form, but have finished cast dialogue. There are three total, and all three have been obviously cut for timing reasons. The first is an elongated joke where ‘Terminator’ Bender challenges an aristocratic gambler in Monte Carlo, the second is an elongated cameo from the Robot Mafia, and the third is a Limbo challenge issued by Hermes to Barbados Slim. The Limbo contest is the only odd deletion because it’s a joke I had assumed they were going to make the second Hermes’ head was reattached backwards.

It all comes to an end with character sketches and digital effect wraparounds, including wire-frames, and the original five minute Comic-Con movie promo.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Overall


Bender’s Big Score isn’t the slam dunk we may have preferred as fans, but it out shines the recent Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Family Guy feature length releases by a healthy margin, though it’s still a few steps behind the South Park movie (which was actually better than the show). The disc’s extras are kind of average, but entertaining, and the A/V quality is impressive. I am looking forward to the next three releases, but there doesn’t seem to be a solid release date just yet.

And just in case you were thinking of not buying this disc, here’s an old friend to change your mind for you:




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