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Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume Two

There have been other works of art based around sentient foodstuff (Terence Davies's The Long Day Closes springs instantly to mind), and many more that have not (like Tron), but there will never be a contribution to this genre less like The Return of the Native than Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis's Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This assessment is, of course, senseless — but so is the show, for which a second two-disc collection of shorts is, thankfully, now available. For the uninitiated, the premise breaks down something like this: A floating order of large fries (Frylock), a large milkshake (Master Shake), and a gob of ground beef (Meatwad) hang out at their house in suburban New Jersey, making life miserable for their "guido" neighbor Carl, who has a pool in which they often lounge uninvited. Occasionally, they encounter difficulties, most of which are instigated by the delusional, narcissistic and sometimes homicidal (particularly when it pertains to Meatwad) Master Shake, and, more often than not, resolved by the put-upon Frylock, who does his best to maintain some semblance of sanity in their dysfunctional household. If the first volume of episodes of ATHF were non-sequitur laden slices of uproariously funny imbecility, the second volume is actually further around the bend, which isn't always a good thing. The hit-to-miss ratio is much less favorable this time out, with a number of clunkers actually failing to elicit more than a disbelieving chuckle or two. Consider, for instance, the disappointingly lazy "Super Birthday Snake," which squanders a workable premise (Meatwad gets swallowed by a giant snake given to him as a birthday gift by the murder-minded Master Shake, forcing Frylock to find a non-lethal manner through which to extricate his moronic roommate, who mistakenly believes he is merely cuddling with the reptile) with a protracted bit of childish "No, I didn't," "Yes, I did" repartee. Or "Super Trivia," where Frylock conspires to force-feed his pals with relatively useless knowledge in order to win a quiz game at the local pub — another promising set-up that laugh-lessly spins its wheels despite the involvement of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane. At 12 minutes per episode, and unburdened by the restraining sitcom structure of, say, "The Simpsons," it's discouraging to see such obviously talented writers coming up short with such uninspired material. There's also an annoying over-reliance on scatological gags in this batch of shorts, though a few do pay off pretty spectacularly, as in "Super Spore," where a parasitic alien ruthlessly bent on securing a job with a 401k plan frequently pouts by messily secreting liquid feces. Lubitsch, this is not. Still, Maiellaro and Willis are on the mark more often than not, and certain episodes promise to have a high rewatchability quotient. Highlights include "Super Bowl," which finds Meatwad bribing Shake and Carl with the promise of tickets to the big game, culminating in the introduction of an afro-ed piece of cardboard named "Boxy Brown"; and "Meat Zone," a parody of a certain Stephen King novel, with Meatwad blessed (or cursed) with clairvoyant powers (e.g., he foresees milk going bad). Finally, because it hinges on Master Shake flushing the utility bills down the toilet because they're too expensive, "Super Squatter" may not only be the best short in this collection, but a more honest and heartbreaking tale of wanton self-destruction than House of Sand and Fog. Warner presents Aqua Teen Hunger Force in a spotless full-frame transfer (1.33:1) with fine Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include commentaries for "Super Trivia," "Meat Zone," "Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future," and (kind of) "Baffler Meal," the episode of "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" (guest starring Willie Nelson) that spawned this series. There are also the briefest of deleted scenes for "Super Model," "Baffler Meal," "Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future" and "Super Birthday Snake" (this one lasts all of a second), two behind-the-scenes featurettes goofily titled "Future Wolf II: Never Cry Wolf: Origin of the Series" and "Future Wolf III," and a "Baffler Meal" music video. Dual-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Clarence Beaks

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