Expectations were perhaps unrealistically high when Fox resurrected the beloved geek favorite Futurama for the home-video market, but they’ve shrunk with each successive direct-to-DVD effort. The movies are far from embarrassing—the best of the lot, The Beast With A Billion Backs,is terrific—but after the series rose from the dead, “good” just isn’t good enough for diehard cultists. As the last of four proposed Futurama movies, Into The Wild Green Yonder could very well mark the end of the series’ animated life, so those same fans probably expect more from it than a few laughs and some nifty animation.
In the latest batch o’ misadventures from the Planet Express gang, Leela joins an incongruously pink and frilly aggregation of radical eco-feminists intent on sabotaging deranged tycoon (and father of Planet Express employee Amy) Leo Wong, who’s attempting to build the world’s largest miniature-golf course. In other developments, Fry develops telekinetic powers and joins a mysterious group of loonballs known as “The Legion Of Mad Fellows,” and Bender embarks on a dangerous affair with the wife of the Godfather of the robot Mafia.
The veritable fate of the universe is in Fry’s hands, but the film nevertheless feels strangely inconsequential. The Bender subplot falls flat, and though it’s consistently amusing, the film’s satire of eco-feminism feels strangely dated, like a time-warped holdover from the good old days of the Clinton administration. But the Legion Of Mad Fellows combines clever gags with the brainy absurdity and conceptual ambition of Futurama at its best. “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings,”the show’s final episode before cancellation, tied things up in a more satisfying, bittersweet, emotional fashion, but given the show’s history, its writers can be forgiven for not wanting to end things too conclusively. With the solid but unspectacular Yonder,the Futurama saga ends (for the time being, at least) not with a whimper, and not with a bang, but with something in between—a banimper, as it were.
Key features: The usual cavalcade of fan-friendly extras, including an audio commentary and deleted scenes.