Back to the Futurama

Created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame (whose Life in Hell comic once appeared in these pages), the sci-fi cartoon series Futurama lasted four seasons on Fox after its 1999 premiere. Ever since, fans--myself included--have been clamoring for its return. Instead we get periodic movie updates that reconvene the original characters and cast voices, guided by producer David X. Cohen. There have been four of these direct-to-DVD movies to date, and Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder may be the last. It's been 10 years since the franchise began, after all, and people move on with their lives. Well, other people.

The February release (Fox Home Ent., $29.98) tackles the twofold themes of environmental conservation and feminism. How many sci-fi shows, Battlestar Galactica included, are so ambitious? Wild Green Yonder is kind of like An Inconvenient Truth for the wider galaxy. (In fact, Al Gore is a fan of the show, for which one of his daughters was a writer; he even leant his voice to a prior Futurama movie.) Only instead of the standard evil developers versus noble eco-guerillas plot, both sides are equally inept...

One the one side are one-eyed Leela and her band of eco-feminists, who are opposed to the efforts of a greedy New Vegas developer to turn a planetary system into a giant mini-golf course. On the other are time-traveling Fry and a mysterious cult of tinfoil-hat dudes who might know the secret for restoring all the universe's extinct life forms. Fry and Leela are former crew members from the planetary delivery service in the original series (like a low-rent FedEx); and they're also kind of sweet on each other.

Fry now has the gift/curse of clairvoyance, thanks to a peculiar industrial accident. Though as he seemingly allies himself with the mini-golf mogul, he can only half-heartedly assist in the battle with the eco-feminists (who jet around space in a VW microbus). He wants to help, but he also wants Leela.

Meanwhile, the cheerfully drunk, corrupt robot Bender and his other delivery crewmates cavort around New Vegas, where Cirque du Solei is now performed by robots. Very sexy robots.

No spoilers as to the outcome. But which do we care about most: mini-golf and the patriarchy it supports, or the eco-feminist cause of planetary conservation? All roads lead to the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Snoop-Dogg, with Associate Justices Janeane Garofalo and Björk.

One only wishes that more jurisprudence, and more sci-fi shows, were as entertaining.

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