So the third direct-to-DVD Futurama movie isn't all that good. At Futurama's best, it's a pretty hilarious animated sitcom that just so happens to take place in the future; at its worst, it falls back on little more than its sci-fi trappings and nerd references for laughs. Let's face it: Anyone who gets the reference of a movie called Bender's Game is also going think that stuff like a "HAL Institute for Criminally Insane Robots" or George Takei shouting "Way to kill the franchise, Bakula!" is funny. The question is whether Bender's Game is enjoyable beyond it's kazillion sci-fi and Dungeons & Dragons references, or if it's the cinematic equivalent of an "I Grok Spock" t-shirt--fantastic for three or four people, and meaningless for everyone else.

The answer is probably "meaningless for everyone else," but Bender's Game seems to be okay with that, which I suppose is fine. One of the benefits of direct-to-DVD distribution is that it allows studios and filmmakers to target a program's intended audience with far more accuracy than other methods of distribution, like, say, broadcasting something on TV. And I really shouldn't complain, I guess: I'm a big enough geek that I happen to find references to 2001 and Star Trek and Orson Scott Card hilarious, so I had fun with Bender's Game.

It wasn't a whole lot of fun, though. This installment's by far the most fragmented and random of the DVD movies so far. No one's looking for an amazing or moving narrative from Futurama, but still--shit that at least seems somewhat coherent is a big a plus. Here, Bender gets involved in Dungeons & Dragons and gets sent to the aforementioned robot sanitarium, and there are also some plot lines involving corporate greed and thinly-veiled jokes about oil drilling and natural resources, and then the whole thing ends with a bunch of Lord of the Rings jokes and a throwdown between two dragons. It's all super nerdy, and a ton of the references are pretty funny, but none of it really holds up--once you're past the deserved-if-disposable jokes at poor Scott Bakula's expense, there's not much more to Bender's Game than a bunch of scenes glued together in semi-coherent fashion. For fans of sci-fi and D&D, that's fine--but for anyone expecting an actual movie or an example of how good Futurama can be? Not so much.