Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Generally Likable Animated Kid's Movie Takes A Turn Into The Mundane With Igor.

The Good: Generally good animation, Starts with an original feel . . .
The Bad: ...quickly becomes ridiculously dull and predictable.
The Basics: A mediocre-at-best animated comedy, Igor starts strong and then descends into the obvious and predictable.

There are very few animated films that truly get me excited these days, but I tend to like the ones which effectively satirize other genres. I recall enjoying Hoodwinked which was a bit of a twist on the traditional fairy tale story. I missed Igor when it was in theaters, but recently when my wife had the movie choice for the night, that was the movie she selected and I actually sat down to watch it with a sense of enthusiasm. That sense only lasted for about the first half hour of the film. After that, Igor became predictable, less funny and quite a bit more like a traditional kids movie than a clever lampoon of the classic, campy horror movies it began as.

Igor is an animated film and the best moments for adults are all in the opening half hour with jokes that are likely to fly right over the heads of children. By the time the movie turns into a disappointment for adults, it is likely to thrill children with its sense of movement and story simplicity. Igor's animation style is similar to that of Coraline but without the claymation-type sense of motion. The way people look with tiny noses, big eyes and exaggerated features, though, is similar. If only it had lived up to the quality of Coraline, I would have been happy!

Igor is a citizen of Malaria, a cloud-covered nation that has been plagued for years and has survived by building its economy on mad scientists running a protection racket on the rest of the world. King Malbert has mad scientists in castles designing the world's most evil creations, which other nations then pay Malaria not to release upon them. The most successful evil genius is Doctor Schadenfreude. Igor - who is both named Igor and holds the position of Igor (assistant to mad scientists, specializing in pulling the levers) - works for Doctor Glickenstein, who is far less successful.

Against conventions and law, however, Igor has become a mad scientist in his own right, having given immortality to a rabbit named Scamper, who is unable to kill himself as a result, and creating a primitive cyborg named Brain (or Brian, if you believe the spelling error on his tank). Igor is convinced he has the best invention of all, the ability to create life and with the annual Mad Science Fair days away, he sets about to doing that. He creates a Frankenstein monster-like creature named Eva and he is successful at reanimating her. His attempts to teach her to be evil, though, are less than successful.

Soon, however, the fraud Dr. Schadenfreude gets word about Eva using his assistant and corporate spy, a shapeshifter named Jaclyn. Jaclyn learns the truth about Eva and Igor and after disposing of Igor, they plan to present Eva as their own creation at the Mad Science Fair. With Scamper and Brain's help, Igor must rally to stop them and save Malaria.

Unfortunately, the plot description of Igor is far better than the execution of the actual movie. While the film opens well with tons of jokes about Scamper trying to kill himself and a decent interplay between Scamper and Brain, once Eva comes in the jokes are fewer and farther between and the movie follows a pretty predictable plot arc toward a very obvious end. Instead of keeping with smart satire, Igor becomes a traditional children's story that reinforces the morals of doing the right thing, punishing evil and having a happy ending. In other words, it is nothing viewers have not already seen before.

Igor starts out as a likable character, the traditional underdog who is undervalued and underappreciated. With the accidental death of Dr. Glickenstein - who fails to follow Igor's advice - Igor has a chance to step out of his role and watching that is enjoyable. But with Heidi (one of Jaclyn's alter egos) enters the film, Igor takes a turn that makes him less likable. It is a less tangible thing, but he begins making more questionable decisions and he is far less fun to watch.

Vocally, Igor is well-presented with John Cusack taking the title role and being supported by Steve Buscemi (Scamper) and Sean Hayes (Brain). But while Buscemi and Hayes have a great beginning to the film, their part is minimized in the second half and that helps to drag down the movie. Without their banter, the become more monolithic sidekicks. Molly Shannon is given little to work with as Eva and ultimately, her role is more of a supporting one. Eddie Izzard breathes life into Dr. Schadenfreude, which almost bumps this movie up into "average" territory.

It is, however, not enough. Igor starts funny, then loses the humor in favor of a very predictable, banal children's story which is not worth finishing.

For other animated or children's movies, please check out my reviews of:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Tooth Fairy
Despicable Me


For other movie reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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