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Review: Futurama – The Beast with a Billion Backs DVD

In theory, it seemed like a good idea: release four, all-new, direct-to-DVD Futurama movies, which would subsequently be broken up into sixteen episodes that would be aired on Comedy Central.

Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs

In practice, watching four standalone episodes with a common plot thread mushed into a single 90-minute movie is a lot like listening to a four-year-old tell a story. At first it’s amusing, but then there are a lot of meandering, nonsensical turns and the damn kid keeps saying, “and then… and then… and then…”, until it’s not cute any more and you wish his mother would put him down for a nap already so you can get on with your life. Guh.

The punchline? The content in Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs will be a lot more enjoyable and digestible in standalone episodes. If you hardcore Futurama fanboys insist on picking up the DVD (dropping in stores today, June 24), watch it in segments across several sittings. You’ll prolong your enjoyment and reduce ‘Groening Fatigue’ (i.e., exhaustion brought on by just a few too many outlandish plot developments, silly voices, and “meatbag” jokes).

There’s definitely some stuff to enjoy, here:

  • The perfect casting of David Cross (Arrested Development) as the antagonist, a lovelorn billion-tentacled beast.
  • Fantastic animation on par with that seen in The Simpsons Movie.
  • Great gags like the casting of Stephen Hawking’s actual robot voice.
  • The ever-talented Futurama voice cast.

As I mentioned, however, you can enjoy all of these treats when the episodes hit Comedy Central. With the notable exception of the oft-hilarious commentary from Matt Groening and the voice cast, the DVD-exclusive extras offer little in the way of added value:

  • Deleted Scenes – Mostly storyboards and layout animatics. Brief and boring.
  • Futurama The Lost Adventure – Cut scenes from 2003 Futurama; not pretty… and boring.
  • Meet Yivo! Featurette with David Cross – Two minutes of David Cross in the recording studio, describing his character and talking about voice acting, with a little bit of shtick.
  • A Brief History Of Deathball Featurette – A few minutes of 3D modeling and art direction. Vaguely interesting.
  • Blooperama – A couple of minutes of the voice cast in the recording studio. They mug, make funny sounds, laugh at each other, and flub their lines. Generally not a all as funny or amusing as you’d expect or hope.
  • 3D Models With Animator Discussion – Less ‘Hollywood magic’, more ‘nerd technical talk’.
  • Storyboard Animatic: The Beast With A Billion Backs, Part One – Storyboards of the first episode. Like watching the movie all over again, but without the animation. Boring.
  • Futurama: Bender’s Game – A brief non-look at the next Futurama game. I don’t think there was actually any game footage.

Convinced yet? Enjoy these episodes on Comedy Central; no need to get the DVD unless you’re in a rush to get your Futurama fix.

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