The Good: Funny, Sometimes clever, Conceptually interesting
The Bad: Meatwad's unintelligible voice
The Basics: Living near the Jersey Shore, sentient food products encounter various obstacles and enemies and hilarity ensues.
What do you get when you put together a milkshake, an order of fries and a blob of meat? One might think a meal. But to Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, that makes a crime fighting force for the slacker generation. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is the story of three sentient food products and their annoyed neighbor working (occasionally) to combat the evil by-products of the scientist Dr. Weird. The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 1 DVD set includes sixteen episodes from this odd Cartoon Network series and offers a chance to laugh at something totally absurd.
Each episode begins with the laboratory of Dr. Weird, where the insane scientist has created something that he wants his assistant, Steve, to "Behold!" For example, in the first episode, it is an immense rabbit robot he calls Rabbot, which breaks loose and heads into the Jersey suburb where the Aqua Teens live. Led by Master Shake, the bossy drink who wants nothing more than to use Carl's, the irritable neighbor, pool, the Aqua Teens try to thwart the obstacle and usually rely on the brains of Frylock, the electricity-weilding french fries. Along for the ride and to be abused by Master Shake is Meatwad, a meatball with arms that can shape change into an igloo or a hot dog in a bun.
If it sounds absurd, you have grasped the concept behind Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It's silly, it's crazy and it's very funny. There is a serious drawback to Aqua Teen Hunger Force and that is that Meatwad speaks in a high pitched, heavily lisped voice that is almost unintelligible. It's very difficult - even on multiple viewings - to catch what he is saying. It's funny because when I sat down with my two new Adult Swim DVD sets, I anticipated liking Aqua Teen Hunger Force more than Sealab 2021, but I was surprised to find the opposite. Aqua Teen Hunger Force has fewer characters and the dynamic gets older faster than in Sealab 2021.
Outside Meatwad's distractingly annoying voice, there is much to recommend Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Master Shake, voiced by Dana Snyder, is funny in his over-the-top self-centered laziness and insistence on being the leader. One of the most humorous touches to the show is that the front door to the house where the Aqua Teens live is shaped exactly like Master Shake, straw and all. Shake is a study of selfishness and his constant co-opting of Carl's pool is one of the nice running jokes in the series.
Frylock, however, is the clear brains of the team and he gets the group out of most of their problems. Educated and sophisticated, Frylock is voiced by the smooth timbre of Carey Means and his straightforward delivery makes for a wonderful contrast to the indecipherable Meatwad.
Each episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force is only 15 minutes long, which is about the average attention span of the average viewer and the program works because, while there is some continuity between episodes, if one episode isn't grabbing the viewer, they can skip it and go onto the next one without missing anything. One of the most amusing running gags is that Dr. Weird and the Aqua Teens never interact, so the heroes never get to confront the ridiculous villain and the silly antagonist never deals with the consequences of the creations he unleashes. It's a nice touch.
The first volume introduces Dr. Weird, as well as the villainous Mooninites, based on Atari graphics and the creatures from beyond Pluto that are bent on world domination without a clue. The Mooninites are a cleverly conceived villain and it's easy to see why they would be recurring; they are sarcastic, abrasive and pop up to tempt Meatwad into doing unethical actions (like stealing) that he wants to do. The interactions between the Aqua Teens and the Mooninites are worth the price of the DVD set alone.
But this is not for children. For example, one of the funniest jokes (based on its execution) involves Inside Out Boy. Meatwad takes in the Inside Out Boy, despite objections. The closing joke is Master Shake coming to the pool and announcing he's stuffed from eating all of the cherry cobbler that was in the bath tub. It's that type of disgusting (but hilarious) jokes that pushes the envelope toward young adults and twenty-somethings for this show.
The DVD set itself is decent with extras being commentary, a couple of deleted scenes and an extended cut of the pilot, Rabbot. This set is funnier than most animated works and pushes the envelope in a way that has been lacking since Family Guy went off the air (when it was off the air!). It's a tough sell for those who do not like absurdist humor, but a treasure to those who do.
For other animated comedies, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Family Guy - “It’s A Trap!”
Clerks: The Animated Series
Robot Chicken - Season 1
For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing of the relevant reviews!
© 2012, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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