by Hank Yuloff
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I just watched a special on HBO that documented the relationship between Disney and Pixar and how difficult it is to make a really good animated film. From just the viewing, it seems that Pixar has it down and has made it easy. Disney had it down decades ago. I think it had something to do with making sure the eyes look real… But anyway… I just saw the first major release by Exodus Film Group and I must say that for a rookie attempt, I am really impressed.
Director Anthony Leondis (Lilo & Stitch 2) and (speaking of rookies) writer Chris McKenna lead an impressive cast in the story that takes place in the mythical country of Malaria. Their weather has changed, causing the country to be unable to grow its own food. So in order for them to continue on a positive GNP, they have all their Mad Scientists take part in an annual Evil Invention contest, the winner of which, they blackmail the rest of the world into paying to not have it released upon the populace.
Each of these Mad Scientists has to have a dimwitted assistant (it must be in the handbook) to do the menial labor and, PULL THE SWITCH at the moment of Frankenstein-Comes-To-Life truth. In Malaria, this lower and mentally dimmer class of people have all been named Igor, because what is the possible purpose of one of them needing any other name.
This film is about one Igor (John Cusack from Martian Child, Say Anything, War, Inc.) who has big dreams of becoming a mad scientist—the most evil of all. He has even created two friends from his inventions: A Brain, named Brian (spelling accident) who is encased in a robot, and a cat which he has extended from nine lives to immortality named Scamper. Brain is voiced by Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) and Scamper is voiced by Steve Buscemi (Delirious, The Sopranos). It is the week before the Evil Invention Contest and his master, Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese from Shrek, Charolette’s Web and Monty Python) has Igor pull the switch on an invention that is definitely not ready for prime time. Dr. G is lost in the following explosion, leaving his laboratory empty and at the disposal of his Igor.
Igor sees his opportunity to become a Mad Scientist and sets about to create… Life! Holy Young Frankenstein—can he do it? My three year old didn’t really care that much, I think she was torn between the fact she loves cartoons (animation) and being bored with all the big words the characters were using. Remember in all of the Bugs Bunny cartoons there were just enough jokes to keep the adults laughing? Leondis and McKenna dialed the number up a lot so as to raise the minimum approval bar to somewhere around 10-years-old. I also think that in the Monster genre of films, there has to be enough dark themes to gain credibility, but in Igor, they don’t go as far as in The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, which would have made them entirely unacceptable for my daughter. Yes, it looks like I am stuck watching Shrek and Madagascar on DVD continual loop for another little while.
Igor gets a rating of “pretty good” from me. It generally kept my attention with a minimum of squirming around, and I did finish my popcorn. I’d be happy with an entire film around Igor and Scamper and Brain set in a more “bunnies and rainbows” setting. Especially Scamper. Great character. Maybe if they were being hunted by some guy with a stutter or foiled by a duck with an inferiority complex.
Exodus has two more films slated for the next two years: Bunyan and Babe (2009) and The Hero of Color City (2010). I hope their next attempts continue on an upward track.
Hank Yuloff is a founding member of Film Monthly and film critic in Los Angeles.
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