Saturday, September 20, 2008


This year has given us several diverse animated movies. Some were wonderful (Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E), and some not so good ones (Space Chimps, Fly Me to the Moon). Igor falls mostly in the latter category. I actually started out liking it for the first 15 minutes or so, but it just went downhill from there.

Basically, Igor creates a Tim Burton-esque wold where mad scientists are the primary economic powerhouses in the impoverished kingdom of Malaria. They create doomsday weapons and the world pays them to not unleash them. In the kingdom there is a rigid caste system. If you are born with a hunched back, good luck, because you are an Igor. The only job you can have is a mad scientist assistant. The Igor who is the title's namesake is played by John Cusack. Despite his place in society, he wants to be an inventor. After his mad scientist (voiced by John Cleese) meets an untimely end, Igor secretly takes over inventing. The problem, however, is that his new weapon (played by Molly Shannon) is anything but evil.

Most of the cast seems to sleep through the movie. Jay Leno is dull as the king, and Eddie Izzard is only a little bit better as scientific rival, and fraud, Dr. Schadenfreude. The two exceptions to this lack of excitement are Steve Buschemi, who plays Scamper, an immortal and suicidal lab rat, and Sean Hayes, who plays Brain, um... a brain in a jar. The first few scenes of the movie feature the two of these in a series of rapid fire gags. I thought this was going to be the track Igor was going to take, but the movie soon slowed to a crawl.

The movie tries to tread a thin line between children's movie storytelling, and a more adult aesthetic. The script is hollow and poorly written at best. I don't think I've ever seen more expositional dialogs in my life. I'm paraphrasing and exaggerating here, but only slightly. This is from a conversation between Schadenfreude and his girlfriend, Jaclyn. "You're a fraud. As your girlfriend I'm going to continue posing as other people's girlfriends to steal their inventions for you." Seriously? There was no way to show this short of her saying it? No wonder the cast had so much trouble making this interesting.

This would have been forgivable if the target audience wasn't concerned with such matters. But the movie has some aspects that may not be appropriate for a young audience. First of all, Scampers tries to kill himself in a number of fairly horrific ways, and in graphic case we even see him blow a hole in his head. Let's not forget about the genera malicious themes embodied by even the lovable main character. At least he overcomes these evil ambitions my the end.

There were some funny moments, especially with Scamper and Brain. And there were some self-aware aspects that made me chuckle, like Molly Shannon's character being named Eva- presented in a way the mimicked WALL-E. Also, it the movie looked rather nice. The animation wasn't the best I've seen, but it was competent, and the design of the environments and characters embodied a certain twisted charm. These factors, however, a rendered moot when a script is this bad.


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