Months after scaring an entire American city with its marketing material, the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" film is finally coming out. As with that poorly received promo campaign, the movie itself is dividing and baffling critics — so, was it worth it?
You might recall last January’s Boston "ATHF" snafu, the movie marketing campaign from hell that brought the city to its knees and cost Turner Broadcasting $2 million in apology money. Who’d have thought 38 panels of blinking lights shaped like aliens giving the middle finger could do so much damage?
Since the scare, Cartoon Network head Jim Samples has resigned, parent company TBS ponied up said cash, and nary a Mooninite has been spotted anywhere outside of the Adult Swim time slot on Cartoon Network, which incidentally, seems to be the primary airer of the film’s TV spots. Preaching to the choir? Probably. But if you’ve ever caught an episode of "ATHF" you know how unlikely it is to cast a demographic net wider than the college-age stoner set.
The inanely titled "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters" (shortened: "ATHFCMFFT") follows a trio of anthropomorphic animated food products (the egomaniac jumbo milkshake Master Shake, simple-minded meatball Meatwad, and a super-intelligent hovering box of French fries named Frylock) on a winding adventure through ancient Egypt and present-day New Jersey and involves kleptomaniac aliens, a mad scientist, and a mysterious exercise machine from the future. Lost yet? Fans of the show know to expect surrealist, random logic, absurd pop culture references and ADD-style plot movements (or lack thereof); the question is, can the "ATHF" M.O. — usually delivered in perfect 11-minute episodes — translate to a full 86-minute runtime?
Taking a look at the batch of reviews in for the Friday release, one thing is clear: the movie, like the show, is going to divide viewers. (And yes, we could do this for every movie that comes out each week — but most films don’t elicit as much bemusement or sheer vitriol as this has.)
For your reading enjoyment, peruse a selection of quotes from the satisfied, the mystified, and the downright livid critics who have chimed in thus far.
Orlando Weekly’s Jason Ferguson writes that, while the film’s jumble of storytelling conventions may be off-putting, there’s plenty still to laugh at:
"If it’s possible for a movie to be almost unwatchable yet completely hilarious, Aqua Teen Hunger Force comes close to realizing that dream."
Josh Tyler of Cinema Blend is of the mind that the optimal state of viewing is one of higher consciousness, though he viewed it sober and suggests just rolling with the absurdist punches:
"If ever there was a movie that’s review-proof it’s this one. There’s nothing to review. Just 87 minutes of wild (wholly enjoyable) mental instability."
Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine sits on the fence, but gives "ATHF" the benefit of the doubt for its "Dadaesque" film language and a hilarious opening sequence that is "unquestionably the s**t," but has yet to determine if directors Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis are mad or geniuses:
"Like the video cassette system on the back of someone’s head, which a character wows to by saying, "It’s like David Cronenbergian up in here!," this jambalaya of pop clutter, more perplexing than humorous in its insane brinkmanship, never stops boggling the mind. A second viewing with a joint in hand awaits to determine if its fierce comic bombardment means it’s either the worst movie ever made or an act of movie-film revolution."
And our favorites, from two of the ‘net’s singular voices:
CHUD’s Devin Faraci begins with a disclaimer countering the assumption that unless you partake in mind-altering substances, you won’t like "ATHF" ["My experience with psychedelics is also very extensive, ranging from s****y blotter acid to mushrooms to mescaline to PCP (totally by accident)."]. That said, sitting through the feature-length film entirely sober left something to be desired:
"It’s not often that I see a movie that leaves me with the desire to do actual bodily harm to the people who made it, but walking out of ATHFCMFFT I was filled with rage and hatred. Honestly, if George W Bush could prove that Saddam Hussein had funded this movie I would reverse my stance on the Iraq War and say that every single civilian casualty was justified."
Likewise, Ed Douglas of ComingSoon found himself beyond the realm of enjoyment:
"Yes, kids, this critic is taking the stance that if I don’t get it, it can’t possibly be funny, and this movie was one of the most unbearable and unwatchable movie experiences I’ve had this year. Then again, if you’re a fan of the show, you’re probably already beyond help. By all means, go waste your money on this."
"ATHFCMFFT" By The Numbers:
$2 Million = Money paid by Turner Broadcasting after the Boston fiasco
$750,000 = Reported production budget of "ATHFCMFFT"
386,000 = "ATHF" series viewership the week after the marketing fiasco
$3.5 Million = Opening weekend take of Cartoon Network’s last feature length theatrical attempt, "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" (budgeted at $11 Mil)
18-24 = "ATHF"’s target demographic age (males)
866 = Number of screens First Look Pictures is releasing "ATHFCMFFT" on Friday
2 = Critics so far who admit to being fans of the show (Chicago Tribune’s Eric Gwinn, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers)
So, "ATHF"; will it indeed be "Number one in the hood, G?" Eh, probably not. Better question: Will 18-24 year old males who appreciate Dadaist filmmaking, absurdist humor, pixelated, contrarian aliens and talking food products buy enough tickets (and eventually, DVDs) to make the whole thing worthwhile?
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters" has climbed to a 64 percent Tomatometer with 22 reviews in (14 Fresh, 8 Rotten).