Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return
This review might seem a bit out of nowhere for a horror site, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 is something near and dear to the hearts of many hardcore horror fans simply because we've all had to suffer through bad movies with our friends.
We've all been there, particularly if you lived through the video rental era. You'd wander the aisles for upwards of an hour, reading the backs of boxes, looking for the perfect movie to watch. You would grab a pizza and a few refreshing cold beverages, get home, pop in the movie and immediately be disappointed with your carefully selected choice of films. It happens, but you'd suffer through it anyway, because money was spent and you weren't about to let that crappy movie win.
I'm a bit shocked that some of the people I watched movies with back then are still my friends considering how many bad movies I made them watch. At this point I would like to formally apologize to my friend John for making him suffer through all those dreadful movies. Notice I said that I would LIKE to apologize; I'm not actually going to because those memories are some of the best of my formative years.
Which brings me to my point. Mystery Science Theater 3000 isn't just a movie watching experience; it's more like a bonding experience. You feel a kinship, not just with the host and his companions, but with everyone who has ever suffered through a bad movie.
I'll admit that when I first heard that Joel Hodgson was trying to reboot Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was skeptical. As much as I loved the show, I really didn't think it was still relevant in today's society of 140-character Twitter humor, Fail Army videos, and tasteless memes. That, and the fact that it's closing on 20 years since the show appeared on television.
Surprisingly, the new incarnation is every bit as good as the older version. Mind you, it's not the same show. It's the next step in the progression of the show. An evolution. Everything about it is new. It's much more polished with better visuals in some areas, and the old school, homemade feel in others.
The story plays out the same way as the old one. Evil mad scientists Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), and her assistant, TV's Son of TV's Frank, aka Max (Patton Oswalt), trap some poor, likable dope — Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) — on the far side of the moon and force him to watch bad movies with his robot pals.
Even though Day and Oswalt do a great job as the new "Mads", I don't think their characters are fully developed at this point. They seem almost TOO competent compared to Clayton and Pearl Forrester. And while both are colorful and entertaining, they seem a bit generic. As a big fan of both, I'm hoping that both can embrace their respective roles and make them unique and interesting characters in future seasons.
Jonah Ray does a superb job filling the shoes of the hosts before him. No small feat. (Get it? Shoes, Feet. HaHaHaHa!) considering that Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson had two distinctly different styles. He's not just filling the shoes in though, he's doing a great job of making the role his own. And although the voices of Crow and Tom Servo have changed slightly, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn pick up almost seamlessly from Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy regarding the character and delivery of their respective robots.
The riffing in the theater segments is fast and concise right out of the gate, with lots of references to current events as well as throwbacks to some of the classic episodes. Just like the old show, the diverse range of topics give the new shows a great amount of re-watchability.
The host segments are lively and fun, although it's easy to tell that Ray, Yount, and Vaughn haven't quite mastered their on-screen chemistry. That sort of thing will come together over time, though.
Also, the addition of some big-name celebrities and a few familiar old faces dropping by on occasion gives the viewers an added treat. I'd tell you a few right now, but it's more fun to be surprised by it.
Overall, it's a faithful continuation of the series if you're an old fan of the show, and it's a great introduction if you're a newbie.