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Futurama: Bender's Game
voice cast: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John Di Maggio, and Tress MacNeille

director: Dwayne Carey-Hill

84 minutes (12) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Time was when The Simpsons seemed to be on a closed loop on Channel 4 and creator Matt Groening's Futurama came across as the better show, funnier, edgier, and more inventive. Then Futurama too fell into a cycle of repeats and this whole unrated animated universe seemed tame and predictable. Stewie of Family Guy famously assaulted a journalist on the red carpet for asking if Fox were bringing Futurama back. Where Futurama outfoxed The Simpsons was in producing feature-length episodes direct-to-DVD, brought in when the show itself was cancelled, rather than opting for that always-going-to-be-difficult movie version: Bender's Big Score, The Beast With 30,000 Backs, and this one, Bender's Game. A little slow to get going, when it does it's a very entertaining romp targeting the usual referential suspects and making some good jokes along the way.

Mom, the cynical CEO of robots and weapons manufacturer MomCorp, is manipulating the price of dark matter, the basic fuel source for the universe. Her old lover Professor Farnsworth petulantly intends to make her dark matter stocks worthless with an anti-backwards matter crystal. Meanwhile the larcenous robot Bender has discovered he has an imagination and has become addicted to Dungeons & Dragons. At a critical point in the battle to control dark matter, Bender, who is undergoing extreme therapy to break him of his gaming addiction, and who also has a stock of stolen dark matter hidden in his chest cavity, warps reality so that all characters are cast into a gaming universe not a million light-years from Lord Of The Rings. There are also spoof references to Star Wars, Dune, and Dungeons & Dragons itself. Some familiarity with the series and its characters is an aid to enjoyment: Fry is a former pizza-delivery boy deep frozen in 2000 and revived at the turn of the 31st century; the ancient and decrepit Professor Farnsworth is actually Fry's distant nephew. The story stands up for new viewers although there are numerous character-driven in-jokes.

There's a whole mess of DVD extras include an opening sequence spoof of Yellow Submarine, an audio commentary track, storyboard animatic, the Futurama genetics lab - which is a variation on the old game of swapping character heads and bodies, a Dungeons & Dragons featurette, deleted scenes, and outtakes including concerned looks as Billy West continually fluffs the lines of a 'wedgey' joke, plus a trailer for the next feature Into The Wild Green Yonder, a how to draw Futurama featurette, 3D model and animator discussion, a spoof (featuring Bender) of the 'you wouldn't steal...' anti-piracy ad, a post-credits scene featuring D&D creator (the alliteratively-named E. Gary Gygax), and some DVD Easter eggs.

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