For the past several years – ever since the mass production of CGI-animated films – we have seen practically every conceivable version of the twisted fairy tale. Some have been good (like the original Shrek and Hoodwinked). Others have been quite awful (like the colossal misfire Happily N’Ever After).
In watching the trailers for Igor, I got the distinct feeling that we were going to get another installment in this overused series. It looked better than Happily N’Ever After, but I wasn’t expecting anything as cute and as clever as Hoodwinked.
The film attacks the twisted fairy tale from a slightly different angle. Instead of mining the traditional fairy tale theater, it gives us a darker side. This imaginary world, known as the land of Malaria, is closer to something Tim Burton might conceive. After a dark cloud descends over Malaria, its inhabitants decide to start working as evil scientists, dabbling in evil inventions.
However, if you were born looking deformed or with a hump on your back, you were relegated to Igor status and forced to work for the evil scientists. One Igor (John Cusack) has a dream of becoming an evil scientist, and he has even gone as far to create his own underlings. When his scientist perishes in a failed experiment, Igor uses his own Frankenstein-quality invention to enter the Evil Science Fair. However, while trying to make his creation evil, he accidentally makes it believe it is an actress bent on playing Annie on Broadway.
Yeah… that’s a mouthful.
Igor has been advertised pretty heavily on the kids networks, but it was kept from critics. This would normally be a bad sign, but it’s par for the course for the Weinstein Company. In truth, this film could have benefited from some reviews, for no other reason than it could have raised awareness for the film.
The movie works well for a child’s audience because the writing is a bit forced, and kids are far more forgiving than adults are in this context. There’s a definite message – that you can do anything you set your mind to. However, the spirit of the message is lost by trying to cram it down the audience’s throat.
As far as the animation goes, it’s an interesting design, borrowing the stop-motion feel from movies like Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas. However, believable and slick animation can be achieved by almost anyone with a modest budget nowadays.
This is where most lower-quality animated films fail – not in the animation, but in the writing. The Pixar and DreamWorks CGI animated films often carry a message, but it is woven decently into the script rather than being delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
The other stumbling block to this film is the subplot of the creature wanting to be Annie. It’s bad enough she’s brainwashed by a video of James Lipton to want to be an actress. That joke seemed awkward and out-of-place in the film. However, the movie continues this joke literally all the way through the finale. By the time it’s played out, the audience is left scratching its head as they did when the cross-dressing, Capote-channeling Hutt showed up in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
On one hand, I commend the filmmakers for their undying commitment to this element of the plot. However, it was terribly misdirected and distracted me from the otherwise cute story.
THE UPSIDE: Enjoyable enough for kids and nostalgic horror movie junkies.
THE DOWNSIDE: The Annie subplot really should have been cut.
ON THE SIDE: One of Igor’s inventions is a suicidal rabbit that happens to be immortal. This is probably one of the greatest concepts I’ve seen this year.