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Futurama Review: "The Duh-Vinci Code" (6.5)

July 16, 2010  |  10:06am
<em>Futurama</em> Review: "The Duh-Vinci Code" (6.5)

It’s an extremely embarrassing admission for me to make that I read through The Da Vinci Code. I suspect most people reading this article are in the same boat, given the sheer readership of the book — even the book’s supporters are hard pressed convincing anyone it’s better than the literary equivalent of a Michael Bay flick. Even if you had no real interest in it, you may have been like me and simply curious to see why exactly another 80 million in our semi-illiterate society have read the book. But this review isn’t just a set-up for bashing the book, especially as Futurama has already done so quite nicely, though it’s worth noting that it’s not what the episode’s really about.

“The Duh-Vinci Code” begins with a search for a long lost invention of Leonardo Da Vinci’s after Fry and the Professor stumble upon its blueprints. This leads them into a Dan Brown-style journey through Rome where the Planet Express crew jumps to insane conclusions with the best of them, eventually learning that Saint James was a robot (or, as it turns out later, was killed by a robot).

A couple of idiotic clues later and Fry and the Professor end up flying to Da Vinci’s home planet, as the great man turns out to be an alien. Not only that, on Da Vinci’s planet Da Vinci himself is in fact an imbecile on the level of Fry. So while the Professor spends his time attending math lectures, Fry and Da Vinci bond over their mutual stupidity. The professor ends up earning his comeuppance when he also proves to be dumb for an inhabitant of this planet, and things close in a typically Futurama manner with Da Vinci attempting to kill everyone else with his Renaissance-era doomsday device.

The episode’s bifurcated plot leads to a large amount of its unevenness. Even though it’s kind of rote parody, the first half is stronger than the second, which seems a bit like an afterthought and just doesn’t have enough time to fully develop itself. It works well thematically with the rest of the episode’s rather blunt “don’t make fun of people for being dumb because there’s always someone smarter than you” premise, but there’s a dearth of really funny jokes in this section. Ultimately, I’d prefer just making fun of Dan Brown for the full 22-minutes — there’s certainly enough material.

It’s also an interesting choice to focus so much of the episode on the relationship between Fry and the Professor. The familial relationship between the two has always been infrequently addressed and usually used for just one-off gags, with Futurama really pushing their employer/employee relationship into the foreground. Ultimately they’re not the most fun pair to see alone, which contributes to why the first half of the episode works better. This shows Futurama trying new material by isolating them in this manner, but in this case it just didn’t quite succeed.

So not as good as last week’s episode, but “The Duh-Vinci Code” was definitely interesting and took the show in an unexpected direction. I much prefer this to the first couple of episodes, and even if the second half of this one wasn’t the best, it wasn’t terrible, just merely OK.

Stray Observations:
-Yay for monocle jokes! Even not particularly good ones.
“Chit chat achieved.”
“Come lad, take this hand and I’ll explain to you why I find you so repugnant.”
-So it’s finally explained: Zoidberg’s doctorate is in art history.
“Didn’t we used to be a delivery company?”
-The return of the space pope! Him and Pazuzu are my favorite characters.
“Looks like eating rocks wasn’t as dumb as you said.”
-Even in space, bullies are named Biff. One of those universal constants.
“Just because I’m stupider than them they think they’re smarter than me.”
-We just adopted a new kitten and she was a fan of the episode. I don’t know if that counts for much to anyone else, but it’s definitely a recommendation in my mind. Yes, this note is largely an excuse to mention my adorable new cat.

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