A Happy Meal that’s come to life (Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad) are given various origin stories that all conflict. They are given chase by Abraham Lincoln in a Volkswagen Beetle. They begin in an ancient Egypt where a jeep is waiting for them. They are chased by FBI agents convinced that invisible perps are all around them. They build an exercise machine that turns into an egg-laying monster, kidnaps their fat neighbor, and lays waste to New Jersey. While chasing it they are distracted by a roller coaster. Gay aliens and … anyway, it goes on like this, and either you discard it as “stoner humor” or you see a connection to Luis Bunuel.
Sadly, because of its crude animation and potty-mouth, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” is often compared unfavorably to “SouthPark” for lacking “SouthPark’s” “sharp writing.” Let me let you in on a secret: “SouthPark” isn’t “sharp,” it’s “obvious.” “SouthPark” is perfect for TV because of its utter lack of ambiguity. Seldom does an episode end without you being absolutely certain what part of its libertarian agendum has been crammed down your throat in a smug, self-flagellating manner. (Yes, that’s “libertarian,” so ever critic on the Left who thinks that obscenity means “they’re one of us,” say hello to upper-class tax cuts and slashed Medicare.) By claiming to make fun of preachy TV “what we’ve learned today” speeches, “SouthPark” has given itself a free pass to continually make preachy TV “what we’ve learned today” speeches.
But maybe that’s me and I’m more of a formalist. And, while “Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s” visuals can hardly be called more cinematic than “SouthPark,” its narrative aspirations are. The show may be obsessed with pop culture minutiae, but more than that it is obsessed with formal experimentation, with a complete jettison of a first and third act, and very little of a second. It is obsessed with fragmentation. Characters from the show appear in the movie, yet you will miss nothing from not having seen the show: everyone is defined solely by the bizarre behavior he exhibits at that particular moment.
No, you won’t feel congratulated for watching a cartoon about politics like “SouthPark” but “Aqua Teen” spins a nearly-musical web of non-sequiturs and narrative doublebacking that “SouthPark’s” substance-addiction is far too cowardly to touch. And by substance I mean precisely what everyone complains about with “this is all style and no substance!” Well, if you love substance so damn much, then watch “SouthPark” in which characters do very little besides trot out and scream about something topical and substantive at the top of their fingernail-on-chalkboard voices.
But maybe that’s just me.
Finished May 13th, 2007
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