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The Beast with a
Billion Backs

To be honest, I missed Bender's Big Score, though it's still on my list of DVDs to convince my children they need to get me for Christmas but can't watch themselves. So it seems that I missed some important plot developments in the Futurama canon. It's not exactly as if the characters grow and change, but at least they progress.

Actually, it's more like they meander with vague purpose. As entertaining as Futurama is, stretching it out into 80 or so minutes at a time only underscores that it's a franchise about jokes, not actual story.

The tale begins with a "…previously on Futurama…" intro, as a rift appears in the sky above Earth. Or above the universe. If you're a hardcore science fiction fan, this may not be the show for you, but it never gets in the way for me.

Though that rift becomes crucial to the ending, Beast with a Billion Backs takes its sweet time getting around to it mattering. Everything pays off by the closing credits, but the plot threads seem as numerous as the hookworm flies that are the last stage of Kif Kroker's people's lifecycle - and what a disturbing joke that is.

Yet the same sharp sense of humor from the old days remains. Everything Futurama requires watching more than once just to catch all of it. Rare are the minds that can come up with a title joke that evokes both fifties kitsch and Shakespearean tragedy, but Matt Groening and company manage it.

The disc includes a so-called "blooper reel," which is more just a slice of seeing the cast recording. One of the things that makes the ensemble so sharp is that they do all record together, and they seem remarkably patient with one another.

There's also a featurette on designing the game "Deathball," a brilliant little side-note in the proceedings of The Beast with a Billion Backs. Please, Fox Network, if you're going to give us a lot of crap anyway, please try to make Deathball a real event.

David Cross pops up to talk about his technique for voicing his role in this movie, and it's somewhat reassuring that for the most part, this disc won't teach you anything about voice acting. It seems like that's the way Bender would want it.

Finally, if you were like me and stalled out halfway through the Futurama videogame - the ultra-violet sequence got too dark for me to play through, really - all the cut scenes have been included here, edited together as "the lost episode."

All together, it makes a good midsummer night's timewaster. See, I can be Shakespearean, too.

Derek McCaw


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