Futurama tackles yet another dimension

The canceled show just doesn’t know how to leave your DVD player

Becky Lang

E“The Beast with a Billion Backs”
Directed by: Peter Avanzino.
Starring: Billy West, Katey Sagal, David Cross
Rated: Not rated
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment every canceled show may want to crank out as many DVDs as its writers can pen just to prove to network execs how many people are still watching. DVD sales got “Family Guy” back on the air , although the series’ “Star Wars” parody wasn’t worth putting down that Wii controller. The latest to jump onto that bandwagon is “Futurama,” whose team of animation veterans is whipping up a four-film series.

Named after a term for sex that even Shakespeare liked to use – “two-backed beast” – the Futurama film blows it up to orgy proportions for the second installment in the series. And you’d better believe that those crafty writers will make it literal.

Confronted with a rip in the fabric of the universe, the human race has worn itself out in the sheer energy of panicking, taking a pause to smoke a cigarette and send a missile into the tear. From there, the plot squeezes itself into a vortex of bizarre twists starring a bunch of tentacles and anchored by the characters’ trusty quirks: Bender drinks a lot, Zoidberg throws up a bucketful of sea creatures and Zapp Brannigan continues to try to sleep with Leela.

Unlike the show, which had increasingly relied on overt political themes for humor, “The Beast With a Billion Backs” goes after a broader and less TV-friendly target: religion. While taking on another exhausting topic in American media seems predictable for “Futurama,” this installment does it in such a bizarre and short attention-spanned manner that it can still be funny. Namely, David Cross, who played the cut-off sporting Tobias Fünke on “Arrested Development,” i s the voice of the deity.

Another refreshing guest is Brittany Murphy, who takes a break from “King of the Hill” to contribute her airy voice to yet another amorous character, Fry’s new girlfriend.

“The Beast with a Billion Backs” is better than the average episode, but it may take a weekly serving of David Cross to get “Futurama” back on the tube.