Straight from the top, I'll admit that I wasn't much aware of the Aqua Teens before viewing their new animated feature film, and I hold a slight disdain for the us vs. them hipster mentality of Cartoon Network's entire "Adult Swim" line-up. That said, this motion picture is brutal, amateurish, insulting, and occasionally brilliant.
Straining to put together their "Insane-O-Flex" exercise machine, anthropomorphic fast food selections Master Shake, Meatwad, and Frylock search high and low for the mysterious objects that unlock the equipment for use. Once assembled properly, the Insane-O-Flex grows to Godzilla-like proportions, using hick neighbor Carl as its demonic fitness engine. All this mayhem delights the evil Dr. Weird who, along with an assortment of wicked characters, wants the Aqua Teens defeated for good so he can rule the world...or at least save his evil fortress from being turned into condos.
Through the devotion of teenagers and 35-year-old accountants who still want a lightening bolt reputation as being pop-culturally aware, the Aqua Teens have risen to a cult status potent enough to make their own stab at a feature-length adventure. I've had this same dread before, with cartoon series-based productions like "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut," yet those films made an impossible effort to rise above their small town cable origins ("South Park" was a flat-out Broadway musical). The same cannot be said of "Film for Theaters."
On television, the Aqua Teens lived in a static world, not achieving much in their 11-minute running time. Expanded to 84 minutes, the results haven't been radically improved. To fill the frame, "Film for Theaters" is a literal explosion of irreverence and nonsense, aimed directly at fans of the show with hopes that civilians daring to sit and partake in the fun will be amused as well. However, this doesn't mean an upgrade in ambition or artistry. "Film for Theaters" barely passes for a "movie," but the fearless appetite for malarkey makes it sufficiently memorable if not always tolerable.
As one of the newcomers to the magic of Master Shake, Meatwad, and Frylock, "Film for Theaters" gave me the vague impression that creators Matt Majellaro and Dave Willis are a whole lot smarter than they're letting on.
The cold opening of the film features the classic retro concession stand item singers (hot dog, popcorn, soda) wishing the audience the best of times at the movies. They soon run into the hardcore food selections of the multiplex (nachos, pretzels, and a bon-bon) who blast into an 80s death metal rundown on how not to behave inside a theater. It's this close to pure genius, and had me laughing out loud hoping the brittle strands of brilliance would last throughout the entire film. It doesn't, but pure gold is in here. You just have to work to find it.
Oddly, it's the Aqua Teens themselves who tend to bring "Film for Theaters" down whenever Majellaro and Willis are stuck finding something for the team to do. Often they just stall with meaningless banter, doing wonders for the film's creeping sense of disinterest. The more entertainingly absurdist material is found in the supporting characters; a wild assembly of creatures and attitudes that get bigger laughs than anything the titular heroes can muster up. The standouts include two wisecracking 8-bit characters knows as the Mooninites, the aptly named Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future, menacing Plutonians Emory and Oglethorpe, and Rush member Neil Peart, who can bring the dead back to life with his magical ways on the drums.
I'm not sure I would recommend "Film for Theaters," but I certainly enjoyed this strange piece of sluggish comedy and insider absurdity. I wouldn't say the film makes me a newfound fan of the Aqua Teens, but from now on I'll be less inclined to leap for the remote and change the channel in disgust when the show airs.
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