Appellate Judge Dave Ryan makes the money, see; Appellate Judge Dave Ryan gets the honeys, G.
Our reviews of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume One (published November 18th, 2003), Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Two (published July 20th, 2004), Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Three (published December 22nd, 2004), Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Four (published December 12th, 2005), Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters For DVD (published August 20th, 2007), Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Seven (published May 28th, 2010), and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Six (published January 8th, 2009) are also available.
Dancing is forbidden.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the flagship of Adult Swim's cartoon offerings, seemed to have come to an end in late 2004, when co-creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro each announced new individual projects for Adult Swim (Squidbillies and 12 Oz. Mouse, respectively). But return it did, barely more than a year later, with a new 13-episode fourth season of shows. Although it's titled Aqua Teen Hunger Force Season Five on the box, this DVD is actually that fourth season in its entirety, and the fifth DVD volume released. While it's more inconsistent than the first three seasons/four volumes of the show, it does have arguably the two greatest Aqua Teen episodes of all time, which makes it a must-have for ATHF fans.
Facts of the Case
Don't even bother trying to make sense of this; just accept it. Frylock (Carey Means, The Brak Show), a floating box of fries, Master Shake (Dana Snyder, Saul of the Mole Men), a milkshake, and Meatwad (Dave Willis), a ball of meat, live together in suburban New Jersey. Once upon a time they were private detectives, but now they just sort of hang out and let things happen to them. Their neighbor, Carl Brutananadilewski (Willis), views them as a constant source of annoyance.
As noted above, this disc has all 13 episodes of Season Four, except the originally-23-minute "Deleted Scenes" episode is presented in its split-up two episode form, as has been used for subsequent airings.
• "Boost Mobile"
• "Dickesode" (original broadcast and unrated
• "Hand Banana"
• "Party All The Time"
• "Bart Oates"
• "Global Grilling"
• "Grim Reaper Gutters"
• "Carl Wash"
• "Star-Studded Xmas Spectacular" (Parts 1 and 2)
The humor in Aqua Teen Hunger Force is very aggressive and cutting-edge, and as such, will not be everyone's cup of tea. Also, unlike most cartoons, ATHF rarely uses visual gags; the show could almost—but not quite—be presented as a radio play. Ultimately, though, the glory of ATHF is the brilliant voice acting and improvisational skills of Dana Snyder and Dave Willis. The characters of Master Shake (Snyder), Meatwad, and Carl (both Willis) are so completely inhabited and fleshed out by their creators—and so thoroughly funny as well—that the show reaches a point where the plot is almost superfluous; these characters could be participating in anything and it would have a strong chance of being entertaining.
Because the humor of the show is so out-there cutting edge, it often misses the mark. ATHF takes a lot more risks situation-wise in this season, risks that don't always work. When the show veers towards stuff that probably sounded really good after a few hits on the bong, it can trip up. (More on the misses in the Rebuttal Witnesses section.) But when the show is clicking on all cylinders, it's spectacular.
"Ezekiel" is, in my opinion, unquestionably the greatest Aqua Teen episode ever made. It is Shake's masterpiece, as the unexpected appearance of the titular small talking milkshake turns him into a Kit Culkin-like raging stage father. Little Ezekiel (voiced sub rosa by Patton Oswalt, the best comedian you've never heard of) is…"special." As in, he's clearly retarded, or autistic, or possibly both. What could be a profoundly offensive characterization turns out just okay, though—because Ezekiel is just so damn loveable and adorable that no one could possibly view his portrayal as demeaning or belittling. Hell, he's clearly smarter than Meatwad…and he's a chess prodigy. Besides, it's hysterical. And, it's got the two best Master Shake lines ever:
• "Yes, I have banged hundreds of broads. Internationally. But know this—I wrap my rascal two times, because I like it to be joyless and without sensation, as a way of punishing supermodels."
• "Oh, that's where it starts. Then pretty soon, he's gonna want 65 cents for bus fare. Liquor for his stomach. You know, I counsel dogs in better shape than you, freejacking all around here like you're Mick Jagger…Listen, why don't you go hustle on down to the soup kitchen, Mick!"
Not far behind "Ezekiel" on the all-time greatest list is "Hand Banana." Hand Banana is Meatwad's dog, created via an illicit computer program and shaped like a large version of Shake's hand. He's a fun dog for Meatwad—and an accomplished pastry chef. He also regularly rapes Carl. Carl's response is to create his own dog, which he tries to name "The Enforcer," but which prefers to be named "Spaghetti." Spaghetti…promptly rapes Carl. Yes, it's a whole episode about dogs raping humans. And it's terrific.
If you're a regular purchaser of Adult Swim DVDs, you know that the DVDs for the in-house productions (i.e. the ones made by Williams Street) tend to be thin on extras. This set is different: it's got an average level of extras, which, in the context of Adult Swim DVDs, is quite a haul. There are the usual suspects—a couple of deleted bits of scenes and some behind-the-scenes clips (the funniest being a recording session with Willis' grandmother for "Dirtfoot"), as well as a gaggle of interstitial material from the Aqua Teen marathon aired to promote the theatrical release of ATHF:MFFT in April, 2007 (mainly the stuff that wasn't already included on the ATHF:MFFT DVD). Besides the uncensored version of "Dickesode" (which is technically an extra feature, I suppose), there's also the full "Chambraigne" episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which featured the first appearance of the brains Carl and Carl Jr. Plus—stickers!
My favorite extra, though, was "ATHF Movie Premiere with Space Ghost," an edited version of the live webcast aired on the Adult Swim website for the movie's premiere. It's the wonderfully talented voice actor George Lowe, poured into a Space Ghost costume and given a microphone to interview the attendees on the "red carpet" before the film. It serves two purposes—first, it lets Lowe ad-lib to his heart's content (he's extremely funny—almost a real-life version of his Space Ghost character), and second, it gives us a look at many of the ATHF cast and crew, who aren't normally featured on these DVDs. For example, this is the first time I've actually seen Carey Means (Frylock) talking about himself and the show. The only other time we've seen his face was on the last DVD, which featured footage of an Aqua Teen recording session.
It doesn't really count as an extra, but it's great nonetheless: all of the menus on the DVD are sung. Yes, when you select an option from a menu, someone sings what you've just selected. I haven't been able to confirm this (despite looking far and wide), but I strongly suspect that the female singers, who "sing" the episode titles on the episode selection screen, are Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, who appeared on the recently-aired fifth season episode "Sirens." The extra features are sung, hard rock-style, by (I believe) Maiellaro and Willis. It's a tiny touch, but an enjoyable one.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As noted above, Aqua Teen—like all of the Adult Swim shows—isn't for everyone's taste. If you regularly find yourself wondering at how that Ray Romano gets away with such edgy comedy on his sitcom…well, this probably isn't the show for you.
And even if it is the show for you, some of these episodes aren't up to snuff. "Dickesode" is a one-note gag that's stretched into a full 11-minute episode. The concept is funny for a couple of minutes, but then just feels stupid and vaguely disturbing. "Grim Reaper Gutters" feels mailed in. The actual episode portion is only a couple of minutes long; the first 2/3 of the episode is a faux clip show. And the mucous men in "Global Grilling" are just plain gross.
Even though they're just not that good, each of those episodes still have their little moments. That's the beauty of the show—even in an episode that, as a whole, isn't terribly funny, there are still islands of humor to be found.
Five disks and seven years in, if you've haven't already made up your mind on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, you probably aren't in the show's target audience. But if you're looking to expand your horizons, you might want to take a chance on this brutally funny little cartoon. I guarantee that you will either love it, or begin to seriously question the direction of humanity in the 21st century. Either way, this Volume 5 disc is as good a place as any to start, and a slightly better package than prior ATHF releases to boot. If you're already a fan, though, you probably already own this for "Ezekiel" and "Hand Banana."
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