Plantasm is a sad divergent from the absurd genius that was Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 8, 2023
Rating 2 /5
Aqua Teen Hunger Force has always been an animated series of great subversion. The opening animation creates an action-adventure saga where food-based characters save the day. The show features the central characters of Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad getting distracted by other stuff and hardly saving the day. Their 2007 theatrical film, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, encapsulated this perfectly, presenting an elaborate animated opening and a meandering plot about lineage, exercise equipment, and wasting time while traversing space and time.
Plantasm, unfortunately, plays like the very film ATHF would aim to mock. I expected the opening to be an over-the-top sequence of the trio fighting off an alien invasion while their bitter neighbor Carl becomes a threat to all humanity. Soon after that, however, a plot soon sets in where the Aqua Teen Hunger Force does have to save the world. This makes for a film that feels either trying too hard to give the action-craving fans what they want or missing the mark of ATHF’s core appeal.
The good news is that the characters don’t feel entirely out of place for this long-awaited return of the misfit ensemble. Shake (Dana Snyder) is still an egotistical jerk milkshake who pretends to be a hotshot, even when at his lowest as a homeless shake. Meatwad (Dave Willis) is still an adorable little kid who tries almost too hard to find the bright side of light. Frylock (Carey Means) is the perfect straight man, the most vital and intelligent group member, so bright that he ditched his dimwitted roommates years ago. Carl (Willis) remains the middle-aged curmudgeon who will only commit to anything if it benefits himself or harms his former neighbors of the food products.
All of them are thrown into a plot that feels far too standard for their ridiculous nature. In an all-too-obvious parody of Amazon, the conglomerate Amazin is trying to take over the world while being helmed by its greedy and short leader Neil (Peter Serafinowicz). His plans span beyond the Earth as he enslaves other planets and forces alien species to do his labor. His enslaved aliens include the snot-shooting Japongaloids (Natasha Rothwell) and the tree-like Fraptaculan (Robert Smigel). Amid Neil’s plans for total cosmos control, an unfortunate plant experiment leads to plant creatures taking over the world. The Aqua Teen Hunger Force are the only ones who can stop them.
The problem is that…well, the group does stop them. This leads to a giant robot battle, and a Mad Max-style rampage as the group lays waste to hordes of plant creatures. Something about this practicable follow-through feels…off. It doesn’t strike me that the lazy Shake and Carl would take easily to training hard and go on a killing spree of the plant monsters overrunning the Earth. It would almost benefit the film from leaning heavier into a series narrative devoid of humor as it would subvert the postmodern comedy present of the original series. This different script feels more akin to a fan-based movie that is less interested in the comedy of the series and more focused on transforming the characters into action stars, complete with improved animation that is way more fluid and detailed than the simplistic silliness of past incarnations.
The film's saving grace is the addition of Mooninite antagonists Ignignot and Errr, the foul-mouthed and two-dimensional aliens from the moon. They hijack the movie and constantly fast-forward the intricate scene while mocking the audiences who paid for this direct-to-video movie. That’s funny, but it wears out its welcome early, where the viewer feels a tad ripped-off that the bulk of the joke is that they paid for this movie.
Plantasm is a sad divergent from the absurd genius that was Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It becomes far too wrapped up in its simplistic satire of corporate greed and weaponization of the environment to ever becomes the subversive franchise it was once known as. Even if the joke is that this isn’t the same Aqua Teen Hunger Force, there’s still a longing for a more knowing comedy that was present in the original series. The post-credit scene hints at a sequel, but it’s doubtful where, if any place, this franchise could go next when it feels so divorced from the absurdity it once held.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.