FEBRUARY 1, 2009
Man, if Igor had come out when I was 7 or 8 I’d be the happiest little kid ever. Even though I was already watching R rated horror films, I still enjoyed age-appropriate movies, so to have a movie this charming that was also technically a horror movie would have been the best of both worlds.
Of course, we didn’t have CGI films back then, so it would probably be 2D and look like Sword and the Stone or maybe Pinocchio's Pleasure Island), which is to say - good, but not exactly jaw-dropping, with limited range for action sequences. Even though the animation here isn’t up to Pixar, it’s a great mix of typical horror elements (castles, laboratories, lightning/full moon establishing shots) with imaginative and colorful landscapes and set designs. Some of it resembles Nightmare Before Christmas (the character of King Malbert looks almost identical to Halloweentown’s mayor), but it’s not too much of a distraction. The stories and overall design are different enough to forgive the occasional character that should have been redesigned to avoid comparison.
I have to talk about the character of Brain/Brian. He’s a robotic invention; a brain in a jar with an arm, but he’s also borderline mentally challenged. His random nonsense made me laugh throughout the film (when Igor begins to scale a castle wall to mount a rescue, he just yells “Bring me a toy!”), and his interactions with Scamper (Steve Buscemi) are a continual highlight. Randomness is actually the order of the day; it seems every 5 minutes there’s a line or action that is just not what you expect in what is technically a kid’s movie. Any movie with the line “Why’s everything about pants with you?” is automatically OK in my book.
I just wish there were a few more humorous jabs at horror movie conventions. The movie is based on the idea that people named Igor are only allowed to be assistants to mad scientists; their only meaning in life to pull switches. I found this to be a hilarious concept, so I wish the writers had incorporated more concepts in a similar vein. There are still a few little homages and the like sprinkled throughout the movie (the climax occurs at the “Evil Science Fair”), but it’s hardly the focus that the first 10 minutes led me to believe. Especially considering the rather non-kid friendly approach to some of the subplots - not only are there a couple of deaths, but the Scamper character is suicidal, and the film’s heroine spends most of the 3rd act as a giant evil monster.
One thing about that climax - she’s singing “Tomorrow” from Annie the entire time, as she pummels and kicks various “science projects”. How awesome is that? I want to see a live action movie rip this scene off - have like, Van Damme singing “Defying Gravity” as he kicks the shit out of some dudes in a bar or something. It would be the most amazing thing that ever occurred in recorded history.
The DVD is pretty slim, which is a bummer. The commentary is energetic but hardly necessary (nearly 50% of it is the participants fawning over the cast, particularly Jennifer Coolidge), and an alternate opening isn’t really different enough to warrant taking the time to watch it (especially since the final version is much better anyway). Then there are some concept designs and storyboards that will take you about 3 minutes total to go through. It would have been cool to see some of the actors recording their dialogue, or maybe some pre-viz stuff, but then again, box office bombs rarely get any features at all, so I guess we should be happy we got that much.
A fellow horror nerd friend of mine recently had a kid... I think I’ll buy this for them and every subsequent friend who spawns (I'm pretty goddamn lazy when it comes to gift buying). It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a great concept executed with charm. I had a big grin on my face through most of the movie, which is more than I can say for anything Dreamworks has ever done.
What say you?