Making us feel rudely old, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force are now twenty-three years young. They first made an appearance on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim service in 2000, and have been cancelled more times than Piers Morgan thinks he has. This represents their one final (probably not final) hurrah in the form: a straight-to-digital movie called Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm.
If you had any concerns that the movie format would make things too high stakes, AAA and lavish, then you clearly haven’t seen Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, and you certainly shouldn’t worry. This is as low-brow, low-stakes and low-fidelity as you could possibly imagine. It’s well on the low-effort side too, but we’ll get to that.
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm starts with a breakup. The team have never been entirely functional, so it doesn’t take much for creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro to stick a crowbar between the crew and lever them apart. After an ill-fated space mission, they go their separate ways. Frylock gets a job working at Amazin’, an atrociously disguised jab at Amazon; Meatwad is sleeping over at a dog pound; and Master Shake has shacked up in a cardboard box on Carl’s lawn. Life is pretty crap for all of them.
It’s Frylock’s story that propels everything forward. He meets Amazin’s CEO and founder, Neil (an effortlessly suave Peter Serafinowicz), who’s hiding in a giant Dolly Llama statue (don’t ask) because of insecurity around his height. Neil’s so deep into a Napoleon Complex that you expect him to wear the hat, but he forms a friendship with Frylock, mostly so that Frylock can invent a means of making him taller.
One thing leads to another, and suddenly there’s an invasion of plant-based cryptids and a skyscraper-sized tree threatening Earth. It’s the push that the Aqua Teen Hunger Force need, as they put aside their differences to don facepaint, kit out a Mad Max-style car, and save the planet.
On the way, stuff gets gently skewered, with Elon Musk, Amazon unionisation (and union-busting) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe all getting an affectionate jab. And an Aqua Teen Hunger Force wouldn’t be ATHF without the Mooninites, who take their relegation from being primary antagonists particularly badly. They’re far and away the best parts of the movie, actually, as they pause the movie to belittle the audience, carve out scenes so that we don’t get to see them, and generally fuck about, distracting from the main action. But the distraction is hilarious, as no one can smack-talk like they can. We’d have taken a movie solely with them, which they would have happily taken themselves.
They stand out because the rest of the movie has the huff and puff of creators trying to search for a worthwhile topic. Do we really need yet another piss-take of out-of-touch billionaire CEOs? Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are their own parodies, and it feels like we’ve had a parade of similar characters in better movies. Don’t Look Up, Mitchells vs the Machines and even flipping Ron’s Gone Wrong have all done this plenty before, and better, we may add. Peter Serafinowicz’s comic timing adds a lot, but it’s still as stale as a month-old digestive.
Splitting up the crew doesn’t help much, either. They were never the Get-along Gang before, but at least you got to see them riffing off each other. Here, they genuinely hate each other, and spend large portions apart. It means that Carl gets more focus, who’s fine, but he’s just another out-of-touch boomer with a MAGA hard-on, which – again – doesn’t feel like the freshest of topics for comedy.
When the Triffids turn up, created by the movie’s worst character and pulling on the least interesting plot thread, it’s the final nail in the coffin. It’s clear that the story hasn’t anywhere to turn, as it gives up and just throws a world-ending threat onto the screen. We had kind of given up by then, the attention wandering and hoping that the Mooninites might save us. And they did, almost redeeming the entire movie with a last-act arrival that makes brilliant use of their 2D state.
These are skits, and they do occasionally hit. There’s the odd chuckle, mostly from the same characters. An extended Iron Man pisstake had us spilling a drink, and Markula the vampire is under-used, delivering knockout lines every time he turns up. But prolonged jokes about unionisation never quite land, and Master Shake can never rise out of a state of being annoying. We know he’s the heel, but he reaches new heights of heelness in Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm.
There’s sunk-cost at play with Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm. If you’ve been there from the start, way back in 2000, then nothing we say is going to stop you watching. You’re too invested not to. But this is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, only sporadically saved by the Mooninites, who – coincidentally – would probably direct the same criticisms as us to the movie.
We’d advise you to think carefully about whether your love for the Aqua Teen is strong enough. It needs to survive some pretty half-arsed plotting, and jokes that flub into the ground like wet fireworks.
You can buy or rent Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm from the Xbox Store
Over the next few weeks, we are going to be trying something new: we’re going to be reviewing some of the new releases in the Xbox Film and TV Store. Let us know what you make of these features in the comments below.
- The Mooninites steal the show
- Some jokes are gut-punchers
- Meh plot
- Too many jokes are misses
- Keeps separating the team
- Nowhere near enough Mooninites
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Running time - 1hr 15 mins
- Age rating - TBC
- Release date - 2022
- To rent - No rental available
- To buy - £9.99 SD, HD, UHD