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Futurama: Bender's Game

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Image: Fox"Futurama"

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Animated sitcoms don’t mature well. Just ask two of the flashiest ones in recent history: The Simpsons’ characters have become stupider for stupidity’s sake, and Family Guy’s new episodes are a self-referential mess.

You’ve gotta hand it to Futurama, though. In its five seasons (four on Fox, the fifth currently being released as direct-to-DVD movies that will air as half-hour installments down the line), the show has never strayed from the feel and dynamics of its early episodes. Delivery boy–time traveler Fry is still a mental half-step behind his coworkers; one-eyed Leela usurps power whenever possible; and Bender, the smart-alecky alcoholic robot, pushes the limits of human compassion with his self-absorbed schemes. The show is content with being the less spectacular, decidedly less cool cartoon sibling.

Which is why the ambitious, unabashedly nerdy Bender’s Game, the third of four new DVDs, is such a treat and the best of the 2008 bunch thus far. Bender, desperate to play Dungeons & Dragons with the Planet Express kids, forces himself to develop an imagination—the robot version of insanity. The professor, meanwhile, attempts to take down the money-hungry Mom, who controls the universe’s supply of ship fuel. Eventually, the stories collide and become a Lord of the Rings parody that’s equal parts D&D and Star Wars.

While not life-altering, Bender’s Game is funny enough and makes good use of its many cameos (The Jetsons’ Rosie as an OCD robot is amazing). Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the story is an opportunity for the show’s creators to geek out to their fullest. Watch the featurettes for proof of their profound love of RPGs, plus reassurance that, as far as a comfortably unhip Futurama is concerned, we’re in good hands.

Written by Steve Heisler
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