Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Futurama's miraculous resurrection from the depths of premature cancellation represents a profound moral victory for nerdkind, which summoned the show back to life through collective force of will. So it's unsurprising that Futurama's new direct-to-DVD movie, Bender's Big Score, caters slavishly to the show's diehard fan base, offering up an overflowing buffet of fan favorites. Gratuitous nudity! Lots of Leela cleavage! Hedonismbot! Yet another voice cameo from Nobel Prize-winning cutup Al Gore! The reappearance of Richard Nixon and the Harlem Globetrotter scientists! Yes, the film has a little something for everyone, and a whole lot for zealots.

Futurama's first feature-length adventure centers on the Planet Express gang battling a gaggle of naked, malevolent, repulsive spammer aliens intent on Earth domination through Internet chicanery and time-travel-aided thievery. Bender once again goes from bad to evil once he downloads a virus that makes him the aliens' unthinking henchman, while the perpetually thwarted romance between Leela and loveable Everyman Philip J. Fry takes yet another predictably unpredictable turn as she falls for a handsome stranger with a strangely familiar face.

Futurama inhabits a sprawling, flexible science-fiction universe, vast in its dimensions and limitless in its possibilities. The show consequently should be able to go years without repeating itself. So why does Score feel so soothingly familiar? Perhaps because the writers seem intent on cramming just about every element of the show into its overloaded plot, bringing back countless minor supporting characters and revisiting favorite themes. The spammer-alien plot is funnier and more satirical in theory than in practice, while Bender's time-traveling crime spree is strangely anticlimactic. It feels almost churlish to complain about the return of a beloved cult fixture, but while sweet and superbly animated, Score just isn't funny enough to live up to fans' fevered, sky-high expectations. Then again, like its luckless protagonist, Futurama has been in deep storage for years, so it understandably might take a little time for it to find its footing.

Key features: A borderline-giddy audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a Comicon presentation highlight the expected deluge of fan-friendly extras, including a math lecture that has to qualify as the geekiest special feature ever.

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