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`Teen Hunger Force' just a light TV snack

April 13, 2007|Sam Adams | Special to The Times

Normally doled out in 15-minute helpings during Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" is the sort of thing a bright, underachieving college student might come up with while sitting in a fast-food joint at 4 a.m., after doing the kinds of things that cause college students to crave salty snacks in the middle of the night. Aggressively plotless and animated with deliberate crudity, the series -- yes, the one whose publicity stunt backfired in Boston, which was not amused -- chronicles the adventures, or more often non-adventures, of a talking milkshake, meatball and order of fries.

"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters" does much the same, only with a sixfold running time. Creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, who wrote and directed the film, don't seem to have lost much sleep worrying about whether the series' free-associative looseness might wear thin at feature length. Just when you've gotten used to the idea of ambulatory fast food, up pops an alien shaped like a slice of watermelon. Should that not sufficiently blow your mind, said slice is accompanied by Neal Peart, the drummer from the progressive rock band Rush (doing his own voice, and presumably his own solos).

Self-aware to a fault, the movie is post-explanation, post-narrative and, most important, post-effort, which makes plot summary not only undesirable but unwise. Master Shake (voiced by Dana Snyder), Meatwad (Willis) and Frylock (Carey Means) are minding their own business when they come into possession of the Insan-o-flex, an exercise machine that, when assembled, turns into a giant robot whose rampaging tendencies threaten all of New Jersey and points beyond. As a mohawked droid apparently known as the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past warns, "The world as you know it will become a world as you have never known it, starring Chow Yun-Fat."

There's also an evil scientist whose lair is rapidly going condo, a pair of angular blobs from somewhere beyond Pluto, a diaper-wearing arachnid DJ and two square-edged space creatures straight out of a primitive video game. Did I mention Time Lincoln?

How this all fits together isn't the point, or rather the point is that it doesn't. The last thing Maiellaro and Willis would want is to get caught trying too hard.

When it works, there's an appealing absurdity to the left-field gags. It's doubtful a more structured approach could have accommodated the movie's dizzying flurry of half-submerged references (a stray line from "War Games") and outright lifts (a plot turn nicked from "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes").

Still, a little of this junk-drawer fusillade goes a long way. It would have been interesting to see Maiellaro and Willis up the ante for their big-screen outing, rather than simply riffing at greater length.

The movie never becomes tiresome, but only because it demands so little effort.

"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters." MPAA rating: R for crude and sexual humor, violent images and language. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. In general release.

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