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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Igor

My perfect husband is a great fan of animated movies, so he was anxious to see Igor, which opened on Friday at the Essex Cinemas. I steel myself every time we plan to attend a “cartoon” movie because I know the audience will be filled with them ~ and by them you know who I mean ~ children. I always hate to get off on a rant about the behavior of children in movie theaters because I inevitably get nasty mail from mothers who threaten to call Child Protective Services on me and take my kids away. I doubt CPS wants to find a foster home for a 30-something man with a beard and a golden retriever, especially since he already has one ~ with his partner of the last four years. The other nasty writers I get are the ones who want to rip out my uterus, which is ironic because these are the same mothers who are always driving around in those vans with the “Pro-Family” and “Abortion silences a beating heart” type of bumper stickers who think they love, love, love everybody as long as they think exactly like they do. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I don’t want to go off on a rant (but I will) about those ghastly little pseudo-humans with no manners, no sense of closing their mouths when the lights go out, and definitely no idea that their original seats are meant to be occupied during the movie and not just thought of as a “home base” to occasionally return to after running up and down the stairs in an effort to personally annoy the crap out of me for the entire length of the film while their mothers, who wouldn’t recognize discipline if it hit them in their heads with a 2 x 4, stare vacantly at the screen like a herd of cows in a pasture with no clue their little darlings are even gone from their sides. I swear most of these moms look like they are just waiting for the slaughterhouse handler to drop the hammer on their foreheads and end their misery, but hopefully not until they finish their large popcorn and gi-normous diet coke. Gosh, I hope that didn’t sound mean-spirited. Those who know me best know I always speak only from a place of love, caring, and concern. I’m sure you can tell.

Oh well, as I was saying, we went to see Igor, and yes, there were children on hand. One whole row of the theater as a matter of fact was reserved for a birthday party for a six year old girl, so in flocked a gaggle of little girls with a granny on hand to keep them in line. Thank God! Grandmothers are like fifth grade nuns, army sergeants, Gestapo agents, and animal control officers all rolled into one. They will dole out cookies and kisses, but will burn a child’s butt into their seat with one arched eyebrow and a dirty look. Those kids barely breathed through the entire film. I doubt any of them dared pee if their bladders were screaming. I was in heaven.

I didn’t know anything about Igor and expected it to be a lame, third-rate comedy from who knows where, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the very start it was obvious by the unique style of animation and the opening song (by the late Louie Prima of all people) that this was going to be an interesting and complex film, and not necessarily aimed specifically for young kids.

That was apparent as soon as we were told in the voiceover that the story takes place the land of Malaria, obviously a reference that children would not recognize, and only the first of dozens of such adult lines (not “sexual” mind you, but “grown up”). Here in Malaria, King Malbert (voiced by Jay Leno of tv’s “The Tonight Show”) hosts an annual Science Fair for evil scientists, where each presents his best invention of the year that will strike terror into the hearts of the world. For several years, Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard; tv’s “The Riches”) has been the winner, but it is actually because he has stolen “his” inventions from other scientists and passed them off as his own. This year, he has targeted Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese; Shrek the Third) as the target for his thievery, unaware that the Doctor has been destroyed in his attempt to create a spacecraft. Instead, his lowly assistant, Igor (John Cusack; 1408), seizes on the moment to work on his own idea and do something no “Igor” has done before him ~ create a monster.

There are so many levels to
Igor and so many jokes that that majority of the audience (big and small) seemed to miss during the showing my perfect husband and I attended. Writer Chris McKenna, who oddly enough produced the independent film RSO about registered sex offenders, creates a whole political sub-plot regarding Dr. Schadenfreude’s scheme to overthrow the monarchy and seize the throne for himself, while at the same time there is a huge undercurrent about the class issues between the “scientists” and “the Igors”, as everyone born with a hump in their back is immediately assigned to a second-class life and named “Igor” with no other future to look forward to but to work as an assistant to a ”mad scientist.” It’s not all somber though; there’s the chorus of blind orphans signing “I Can Sing Clearly Now” that nobody seemed to get either, or ‘our’ Igor’s earlier creation/sidekick, a road-kill rabbit named Scamper (voiced by Steve Buscemi; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry), who happens to have been “built” immortal, which was a total drag considering he is seriously suicidal and continually tries various ways to end his life only to revive over and over again. Igor’s other pal is a very chatty brain, living in a jar on a self-propelled wagon with arms. He is called ‘Brian’ (Sean Hayes; The Bucket List), the result of his own dyslexic mistake while trying to label “Brain” across his jar with a permanent marker. And there’s also Igor’s Frankenstein-like monster herself, Eva (Molly Shannon; tv’s “Kath & Kim”), who it turns out wants nothing more than to sing the lead in a community theater production of Annie. Okay, so she is 40 feet tall and stitched together like a patchwork quilt, but she can belt out “Tomorrow” like a pro.

Surprisingly, this is a French production with most of the animation done in Vietnam, which
probably explains the decidedly non-Disney feel to the film. Many will compare it to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which it visually resembles, but the pace, tone, and characterizations are much different than that film. For goodness sake, even James Lipton (tv’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio”) has a cameo in Igor, which has got to be good for something.

I will give kudos to the filmmakers for keeping the kids entertained enough to focus on the movie and not on tormenting each other and me. It was either that or Grandma Gestapo, who, either way, I’m getting her number and asking her to be my new best friend when it comes to seeing any movie that is rated G or PG. That babe can crack a whip, and her moustache wasn’t half bad either.

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