And completing my trinity of reviews: Futurama - Bender's Big Score DVD
For an animated franchise like Futurama or Family Guy, there are generally two approaches you could take to a direct-to-DVD feature such as this: 1) Tell a good story designed for maximum appeal in an effort to bring the series back to TV (which Family Guy managed to pull off), or 2) Appeal to the longtime die-hard fans and write them a love letter while trying to complete some of the unfinished character arcs from the show. Bender's Big Score definitely opts for the second approach (although I'd argue it doesn't really give us any real completion on the arcs. If anything, the DVD sets up a bunch of new arcs that will require more DVD features to complete).
The animation and the voice acting are all back with a vengeance: Billy West (the voice of about half the male characters) is clearly enjoying another descent into schizophrenia voicing all of his favorites, from perennially down on his luck Zoidberg, to the ever-sleazy Zap Brannigan, to series protagonist Phillip J. Fry, among others (including a few new characters altogether). John Dimaggio's Bender is a hoot, and the writers allow him to steal every scene he's in. The entire voice cast is rejoined and it's surprising how little has changed in the nearly five years since the series left the airwaves (jeez, it's hard to believe it's been that long). There are also several celebrity cameos via the "heads in a Jar" trick, including a certain former Vice president (who gets a great one-liner).
The story itself is great, tying together elements from the entire series and loaded with characters from previous episodes (my god, but I lost count of how many nods there were to episodes from the series run), and since the cover mentions it, I will tell you that the main plot hooks revolve around time-travel, which the writers use in a manner that would make Dr. Who fans proud. Trust me, if you are a fan of the show, you will appreciate the nods. The flip side of this is that it will be nigh-impenetrable to a new viewer, which may not help the series in terms of launching a longer-term revival effort.
A few other interesting things to note:
-Two of the series long-time recurring antagonists do not appear. I suspect partly because their appearances might have interfered with the overall plot, but I also suspect that there may have been some other issues with voice casting. Any information here would be helpful.
-The Leela/Fry and Bender/Fry dynamic is at the heart of this thing, although there is little actual development, but it's well done. Much less well done is Hermes' subplot, which comes off as stretched thin and rather repetitive. Amy was nearly entirely absent from the entire production, which is of course, really sad.
So, I highly recommend this to fellow Futurama fans, but you might want to sit down any friends who aren't familiar with the show to a few of the better episodes from the series proper before watching this with them.