Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs (DVD Review)25 May, 2008 By: John Latchem
Prebook 5/28/08; Street 6/24/08
Animated Sci-Fi Comedy
Voices of Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, David Herman, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Tress MacNeille, Brittany Murphy, David Cross.
The second direct-to-video resurrection of “Futurama” manages to improve upon the first. However, both movies tend to support the notion that “Futurama” is probably best in small doses.
Bender’s Big Score, released late last year, brought back the Planet Express crew from the void of cancellation in a grand time-travel adventure. The Beast With a Billion Backs picks up right where the previous film left off. A large rift in the space-time continuum has opened, and on the other side lives a large multi-tentacled creature, Yivo, that soon engulfs Earth and enslaves all who live there.
While Yivo is a throwback to 1950s monster movies, the film’s title offers clues to its true nature. The Beast With a Billion Backs is a play on the old British expression “the beast with two backs,” a reference to sex best known from a passage in Othello.
Like Bender’s Big Score and two upcoming “Futurama” movies, Beast With a Billion Backs will be broken into four episodes to constitute a new season for Comedy Central’s broadcast package. As could be expected, the requirements of episodic television seep into the pacing for the movie. Storylines start and stop and start again when the plot shifts direction every 20 minutes, making for a very chaotic single-viewing experience. As a result, the movie begins with great energy and high expectation, but without episodic breaks seems to run out of steam halfway through.
In the half-hour format, “Futurama” never wore out its welcome despite playing second fiddle to its older cousin, “The Simpsons.” In both the original series and these new movies, individual scenes and characterizations stand out. Beast With a Billion Backs has some great gags, including a hilarious cameo by professor Stephen Hawking.
The DVD loads up on extras, with the usual assortment of deleted sequences and a commentary. There are a few featurettes about the cast, including guest star David Cross as Yivo, and a preview of the third movie, Bender’s Game, a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired tale due later this year.
A special treat is a bonus episode edited from footage of the “Futurama” video game. Credit to the producers for making this available to fans not familiar with the game.