After reading a slew of reviews on the new animated film Igor, starring the voices of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, John Cleese, Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, Jennifer Coolidge and Molly Shannon, I can say this: almost none of them get it.
This is not to say that my review is better than theirs, but they just don't get it. You have to have a certain frame of mind to watch this film, and you can't go in expecting anything. (For instance, the soundtrack contains monster-movie-esque music, the songs of Louis Prima, and "I Can See Clearly Now" as sung by blind orphans. Yes, blind orphans.) I was immediately stoked by this film when I first saw the animated trailer online, and quite frankly, I'm still stoked by it. (I have since learned there will be action figures--yes!!)
Anyway, on to our review. The kingdom of Malaria has been transformed into a barren wasteland by a mysterious and unexplained cloud cover, causing near-constant rain and eternal darkness. Since nothing can grow there, the bullying and overbearing King Malbert (Leno) comes up with a novel solution to keep Malaria's economy afloat: create evil inventions of mass destruction and blackmail the rest of the world into paying Malaria not to unleash them on other countries. (If this scenario sounds at all familiar to you, you are most likely going to vote Democrat and will probably end up not liking this rather un-PC movie anyway, so be quiet.) This instantly creates two classes within Malaria: the Evil Scientists, who are treated like celebrities and live rent-free in huge, luxurious laboratories, and the Igors, whose collective job consists mainly of indentured servitude, taking abuse, and switch-pulling. Get born with a hunch on your back, and guess where you'll end up. Because of these circumstances, no one in Malaria is kindhearted, friendly, or even nice.
One Igor (Cusack) who describes himself as "better-looking than the others" (and he's right), is unfortunately cursed with both creative abilities and common decency. Though Igor dreams of being an Evil Scientist, he is in thrall to the temperamental and incompetent Dr. Glickenstein (Cleese), and must invent in secret, creating existentialist Scamper (Buscemi) a sarcastic, suicidal and unfortunately immortal rabbit, and painfully stupid Brain (Hayes), a clumsy brain-in-a-jar who can't even spell his own name right. When Glickenstein is killed during field tests for the upcoming Evil Science Fair, Igor grabs his chance at fame and notoriety and begins working on an evil Frankenstein monster that will destroy all the other inventions at the Fair and be selected for Malbert's blackmail scam. Unfortunately, something goes awry and the resulting creation is a dainty behemoth-sized sweetheart named Eva (Shannon) who quickly decides her own calling: to be an actress. Igor misleads Eva into participating in the Fair, but his secret gets out and he is courted by Dr. Schauenfreude (Izzard), a stylish blowhard whose multiple winning streak at the Fair is maintained by stealing other scientists' inventions with the help of snobbish girlfiend Jaclyn (Coolidge). As Igor struggles with Schauenfreude's temptations and his growing affection for Eva, he discovers a fiendish plan that could change Malaria forever, and not for the better.
This movie is a witty and raucously skewered take on the Frankenstein tale that is a splendid early taste of Halloween dark chocolate. While reviews have been mixed on the film's level of humor (no one seems to understand the concept of gradually building whimsical comic anarchy anymore; it's possible that the Scary Movie And Others oveure killed this), it manages to be both kid- and adult-friendly in the same way that Rocky And Bullwinkle was, while at the same time raising a few important questions about celebrity, fame, beauty, prejudice, and the nature of good and evil (especially with its underplayed theme of smart good-guy nobodies versus evil maladroit somebodies). Yeah, most reviewers are ragging on the Nightmare Before Christmas-like design, but enough generations of spooky kids have seen that film and others by Tim Burton that he can now be considered an influence, and some of those same kids probably grew up to work on this film. Plus, the film's designers have also seen enough of Metropolis and The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari to properly get their German Expressionism going on, so it's all good.
The voice cast also kicks it live and knocks it out, with standout performances coming from Hayes and Buscemi, who steal the show with their team of Brain and Scamper. Izzard and Coolidge mug and posture their way through, with Coolidge stealing some of Izzard's villainous thunder through her Paris-Hilton-meets-Natasha-Fatale portrayal of Jaclyn. Leno is solid but strangely not particularly memorable as Malbert, and Cleese invokes some of his demons from Fawlty Towers in his briefly seen but totally clueless Glickenstein. And Cusack and Shannon, who may seem on paper to be odd choices for Igor and Eva, maintain a constantly high energy level and own their characters for the whole of the film, making them totally believable.
Screw the reviewers. Screw the fact that there's been almost no press for this film, and screw the grumblings about Burtonesque character design and the film's atypical nature as compared to other CGI animated offerings. Go see this film. See it twice so you can catch all the jokes; it's not a typical kiddie film, but a movie about Evil Scientists and Igors ain't gonna be anyway. And there's gonna be action figures.
PULL THE SWITCH!!!
POST-MORTEM: We've just learned from dreadcentral.com that the action figure line has been canned by the Weinstein Company, who made the film. Guess all the Evil Scientists moved to Hollywood.