Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm

3 out of 5

Directed by: Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis

Well, it’s been… seven years since the last season of Aqua Teen, and creators / AT braintrust Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis have not been as visibly busy at Adult Swim as they once were, with the channel itself having much changed shape since the show’s heyday, and the rise of Rick and Morty. None of this means much necessarily, and certainly Rick and Morty have inherited some random humor leeway from the legacy of shows like Aqua Teen; plus, if you wanted that Maiellaro and Willis magic, its been there – in the occasional 12 Oz Mouse episodes, or Squidbillies, or etc. In short, times have changed, but they’ve also stayed the same, and it’s in that spirit that Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm proceeds, jumping right in to nonsense in a crazy, Alien-riffing cold open, and just figuring that if you made time to watch this thing, you know what you’re in for.

While the site of a multi-headed, acid-spitting Carl is brilliant, and we get some laugh out loud moments of each character doing what they do to rival the awesomeness of the Mastodon-scored opening of the last flick – the theme song here isn’t as good, though – the fast-cut storytelling that follows, outlining what the team have been doing since that space adventure, which had apparently been their “last,” is tough though. It’s conceptually very funny – Frylock is doing tech support stuff; Shake is homeless; Meatward works at an animal shelter; Carl masturbates – but it’s also a string of short bursts of scenes that somehow also feel longer than they are; it’s suggestive of Matt and Dave trying to find their rhythm again, and just kinda going all over the place. I’m smiling, but not laughing; appreciating the ideas, but maybe not the execution.

And then it starts to formalize into a plot, and wouldn’t ya know, the movie gets a ton more fun at that point. Overall, this is for the best: the first movie was all greatness up front and then started to drag; this one is uneven, for sure, and relies a bit too much on (somewhat?) timely humor, which was never really the show’s bag, and kinda undercuts the childlike genius of some of the series’ best bits with more accessible “adult” social commentary jabs, however… the way it strings all of that opening waywardness into something with momentum gives us strong “getting the team together” vibes, and once Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad are back and zinging off one another as usual, while that’s late in the movie, it’s totally worth it. As are the Mooninite bits.

In ‘Plantasm,’ Shake and Meatwad try to get their lives going again, post- Aqua Teen years, while Frylock lands a job at “Amazin’,” and gets wrapped up in a scheme in which plant monsters start taking over the world. Peter Serafinowicz as Amazin’s boss, Neil, and Natasha Rothwell as one of Amazin’s tortured workers, and Paul Walter Hauser as an evil scientist, and many, many other bit players do great or okay adding flair to the side characters, but it’s Dana Snyder’s, Carey Means’, and Dave Willis’ show as our leads that seal the deal, every line they spout hilarious in delivery, even if the words are sometimes just getting us from A to B.

The physical edition includes a feature length animatic (which is extended by five minutes, but I don’t have patience for a full-length animatic to spot the differences, I’m sorry to say); extended scenes – very short, but some worthwhile dialogue snippets; a brief behind-the-scenes, which is just some talking heads but worth a chuckle; a music video for the new theme, not the accompanying animation from the movie but rather a long slo-mo walk of the Adult Swim crew; and commentary from eeeeveryone except Matt – very rambly, but they’re all very talkative and it entertains.