Set in the not-too-distant future, a Gizmonic Institute employee is lured to the dark side of the moon by third-generation mad scientist Kinga Forrester and her flunky, Max. He is sat in ...
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Set in the not-too-distant future, a Gizmonic Institute employee is lured to the dark side of the moon by third-generation mad scientist Kinga Forrester and her flunky, Max. He is sat in front of cheesy movies with his robot buddies and forced to tortuously watch bad movies in their entirety as these mad scientists study the effects on his mind.
The cast and crew is composed of talented and likable people, and we know the format can work. There's no reason why this latest series of MST3K (they're at pains to point out that it's not a reboot) shouldn't be every bit as much fun as much what came before.
But much as I love the people involved, it feels over-produced and slightly off-key. Jonah Ray is immensely personable, but not all of that makes it to the screen. He says his lines in a competent Everygeek fashion, but they're clearly not HIS lines, and could be delivered by anyone. It's all very precisely scripted, directed and edited, which is almost, but not quite, the opposite of what it needed. Fumbling a few props is about as far as the vérité is allowed to get.
Felicia Day runs through her usual quirky gamut of mugging and grimacing. It's not a particularly engorged gamut though, and she exploits most of it in every scene. It's nothing that we haven't seen before, many, many, many times, and I find the charm starting to rub thin. Mary Jo Pehl manages do to more with less time in a few appearances as "Grandma" Pearl Forrester. Patton Oswalt - well, he's on the screen and does the best with what he's given, is about the most you can say.
With the huge writing cast, the content should be outstanding. But that surfeit of riches is the problem: everyone wants to write a line and the riffing just never stops. A fair amount of it is just say-what-you-see-in-a-funny-voice padding, too.
Since none of the cast has a particularly distinctive voice, it can be hard to tell who's talking. The upside is that it doesn't actually matter, since none of them have distinct personalities either. The lines might as well be allocated in round-robin fashion, for all the difference it makes.
The first episode, Reptilicus, is particular weak, and dragged perhaps three genuine laugh from me, one of them a cheap erection joke. It feels hugely crowded, with constant riffing crammed into every single moment of silence in the film. And I do mean every single. After, between, and sometimes even before what's happening on screen, the last being particularly jarring. Apparently Precognition is a required course at Gizmonic Institute Academy.
This is MST3K:the ADD Edition. At times, I was shouting "Down in front, watch the movie," rather than feeling like a part of the gang.
That said, stick with it, as it does improve rapidly as the series goes on. Jonah and the bots' timing gets slightly better, and the riffs tend to increase in quality as they cut back on the sheer quantity - "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" being a notable regression to clumsy verbiage.
The movie choices are largely solid, providing plenty of material and some of the films are almost watchable on their own merits. Only the truly dire "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" seems to stump the writing team, and that episode falls flat.
Taken overall, it's a decent effort and is genuine MST3K. But given the budget and cast, I'd set my expectations just a little higher than what they delivered.
I hope it gets another series with this cast, perhaps half the writers and a quarter of the budget. A little less might produce more.
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