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One of the best things about getting a few decades behind is the ability to look back over the years and see have things have changed. As a kid it was a real treat for our parents to take us to the local movie theater to watch a film. Some of the best for our youthful perspective was the animated films. A few were held over from the start of animation as a feature length film which stated in the late thirties. Others were brand new but all of them shared something very important; they were free of the restrictions of the adult world and offered a brief look at pure fantasy. At first all of the animated movies we grew up with where hand drawn. Every second of time required twenty four individual frames to complete. Then came Xeroxing where the backgrounds could be mass produced. When someone devised a means to use computer graphics to the mix there was a revolution in the industry and animated films were never he same again. There are naturally leaders in the field but with the right equipment and a group of talented people to work it a lot of competition has come around. One such company, Exodus Film Group entered into the animated market with the French animation house, Sparx. The result was a film called ‘Igor’. While this is not up to the incredibly high bar set by Disney and Pixar it is a reasonable and honest try and is good as a family film night offering. Its main fault is a problem in finding its proper audience. A modern animated movie has to work on both the adult and child’s level. This one has some themes and references that may be over the head of the kids and too softly presented for the adults. The film also heavily borrows from the animation style that Tim Burton has made famous with his movies ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘The Corpse Bride’. This dulls the luster of originality for this flick and is something that even the kids may pick up. What you do get form this movie is a dark comedy set in a bizarre animated world. It might have worked out better if it was slightly re-worked and geared towards an older teen demographic. The film received its DVD and Blu-ray release through MGM/UA which is now part of the 20th Century Fox universe. If you have younger children in the house you might want to think about how you will address some of the inevitable questions they will have after watching this flick. It does have a PG rating but some younger viewers may find some of the scenes a bit disturbing. Other than that it has its moments of enjoyment.

The story was written by Chris McKenna with credits going to three others; John Hoffman, Anthony Leondis and Dimitri Toscas for additional material. McKenna is a first timer for a feature length animated movie but is a staff writer for the Fox animated sit com, ‘American Dad’. She must have been a big fan of the classic old horror flicks where there was always a simple, deformed laboratory assistant helping out the mad scientist. The titular Igor here, voiced by John Cusack is such a lamentable character. For those of us who remember the character actor Dwight Fry who originated this prototype in the original ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ although he never used the name Igor in any of those films. This story is homage to the thankless job of being a sidekick for an evil overlord. The story goes more to the dark side than many parents will be comfortable with. For example there is a suicidal rabbit named Scamper voiced by Steve Buscemi who is funny for adults that can understand the joke but may result in a misunderstanding for the usual animated flick age group. There is a heart not too far under the surface of this story. It is something for all the misfits and losers that have ever lived. All of the kids who at lunch can’t even approach the cool kids table or the band geek with the constant wedgie will find something to connect to with Igor. He is always the assistant and never the mad scientist and there is something touching and human about that predicament.

Anthony Leondis had a previous experience in directing an animated flick with his work on ‘Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch’ and worked in the art department and as a writer for a couple of other films of this type. It has to be tough going up against mega hit factories like Pixar but innovation can only flourish in an atmosphere of competition. That other studio has such an amazing leg up on the technology that is a it unfair to try to do a comparison. Looking at ‘Igor’ on its own merits the animation style emulates the stop action photography of Tim Burton. This CGI offshoot is faster and easier to create but can’t manage to infuse the warmth and charm of the models. Leondis does pull off telling an interesting story from a vantage point that is almost never heard. Here in the States the underdog story has always been popular. There is something about cheering on the one person that no one thinks can make it. There is a little bit of Igor in all of us and that is what is attractive about this movie. It is just too twisted to recommend for the usual PG audience.

The little town of Malaria the population depends on farming to make their livings. They are a simple people but when a climate change occurs that wipes out their crops it looks bad for them all. A man comes along calling himself King Malbert (voiced by Jay Leno) who takes control and wants to change the economic foundation of the town from agriculture to strange inventions. This results in the evil scientists taking control as the upper class of the community. Those with the misfortune of being born with a hunchback are relegated to the lowest class and forced to work for the scientists. Collectively they are called ‘Igors’. The Igor that is the star of the film works for the oppressive Doctor Glickenstein (John Cleese). Igor may be a hunchback like others of his caste but he is actually very intelligent in scientific matters. He manages to bring Scamper the rabbit back to live making him immortal but the rabbit remains determined to kill himself. Igor also manages to transplant a human brain into a jar and due to a spelling error it becomes known as ‘Brian’. Igor’s crowning achievement is the creation of a woman who was supposed to be evil but turns out a likeable person who wants to become a movie star. Eva (Molly Shannon) is found to have a badly installed evil bone causing her nice disposition.

With themes such as global climate change, oppressive governments and technology gone wild this film has something to make the adults watching think. The point is the format is generally considered to be more conducive to the younger set and the PG rating would indicate to parents that this is lighter entertainment than it is. The Blu-ray presentation of the film is excellent. The animation is so well rendered, especially in the 1080p video. It is something else to see just how vibrant and alive the colors are here. The level of detail is perfect. Accompanying this is the DTS HD lossless audio that will fill the room. The channel separation is far better than anything you have heard on a regular DVD. This is a fun flick that if it had decided what its target audience was would have been even better.

Posted 02/09/09

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