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Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 3

Now that Aqua Teen Hunger Force has gone from being arguably the funniest show on television to just another inspired-but-scattershot sliver of programming on The Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" lineup, one is left to find their subjective pleasures where they can. For some, the height of stupid hilarity might be Dr. Weird inexplicably (that's an adjective that gets a heavy workout when describing the non-sequitur gag-writing of series masterminds Matt Maiellero and Dave Willis) vaporizing his South Jersey Shore laboratory's janitor with Taco Rays (hard shell, of course). For others, the thought of Master Shake flash-frying an entire cow for a Labor Day cookout could very well send them into paroxysms of giggles. But, every now and then, there must be consensus that one gag rises above them all to the level of ineffable (the preferred modifier when "inexplicable" needs a rest) masterstroke status. Such is the case with Meatwad's imaginary friend Boxy Brown, an afro-sporting African-American cardboard box accompanied by pulsing disco music whenever he lets loose his cocky, Barry White-esque basso profundo (fans of a certain John Carpenter classic will appreciate Boxy's "Duke, A-Number One" chastisement of Meatwad in this collection's best episode, "Kidney Car"). With a modicum of screentime, the braggadocious Boxy somehow transcends his literal cardboard origins to become a romantic rogue as vivid and charming as Fielding's Tom Jones, while suggesting the tragic shadings of Bronte's Heathcliff. It's a shame, then, that he only makes two appearances in Volume Three of the Force's exploits, but his absence, while regrettable, does not completely derail the proceedings. The collection gets off to an uproarious start with "Frat Aliens," featuring two spoiled extraterrestrials, one whose dad "owns a dealership," voiced hilariously by comedian Patton Oswalt. Also terrific is "Revenge of the Trees," an odyssey of wild irresponsibility depicting Master Shake's environmental comeuppance after dumping a huge vat of grease in a nearby forest. As expected, the delusional "Mooninites" (for the uninitiated — and, by the way, why are you reading this? — a vengeful duo of bad Atari 2600 graphics) make their obligatory appearance in "The Last One," in which they convene a conference for Aqua Teen villains past. As was the case with Volume Two, Maiellero and Willis are essentially coasting off the consistent brilliance of Volume One (and, to winnow it down further, the first disc), but their batting average stays high enough above the comedic "Mendoza Line" to make up for dud episodes like "Broodwich" or "The Dressing." Fans will lap it up; non-fans can go ahead and wait for Season One of Three's a Crowd. Warner presents Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 3 in a fine full-screen transfer (1.33:1) with solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include commentaries for all four episodes on Disc Two, read-throughs of the scripts for "Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary," "The Last One," "The Dressing," and "Frat Aliens," an interesting writing-to-production look at Maiellero and Willis's process as they piece together "The Cloning" (35 min.), three deleted scenes, music videos for "Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary," fitfully amusing answering machine messages, eleven promo spots, and an art gallery. Dual-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Clarence Beaks

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