Movie Review for Igor (2008)

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Review #686 of 365
Movie Review of Igor (2008) [PG-13] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 19 September 2008 @ 9:40 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits:

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Anthony Leondis (Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch )
Written by: Chris McKenna ("American Dad!")

Featured Voice Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
John Cusack (Martian Child) • Matt McKenna ("American Dad!") • John Cleese (Shrek the Third) • Steve Buscemi (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) • Sean Hayes (The Bucket List) • Eddie Izzard (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ) • Jennifer Coolidge (Epic Movie) • Jay Leno (Cars) • Molly Shannon (Evan AlmightyEvan Almighty) • Christian Slater (The Ten Commandments) • Arsenio Hall (Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!)

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It might well be time to take a look at the animated film industry and create a new classification for those animated films that are really quite good but have an absurd way of showing it because, really, the ones which are seemingly pitched to kids (unlike A Scanner Darkly, for example which was clearly pitched at adults and rated R), there's a growing number of animated films that contain dubious elements that, if not at face value then below the surface, aren't really very kid friendly. Of course, there's probably a good central debate to be had as to whether, by their very nature, animated films are automatically being pitched at kids or not. Clearly, however, the marketing for the film speaks volumes. If it's integrated into a value meal for kids at a fast food chain, featured on a cereal box, emblazoned on bed spreads and pillow cases, advertised during what's left of Saturday morning cartoons, or painted on kids' faces at carnivals, it's being pitched to kids. The first animated film to catch my attention in clearly crossing this kid-friendly boundary, and the box office numbers demonstrated fairly profoundly that many parents and guardians weren't as thrilled with it as the animators and voice cast, was, Bee Movie. The moral of that story was, "Do the right thing, endanger the world." (gulp) Most of us would hope that not be a lesson our kids would learn. Beyond that, the film got into some crazy interspecies relationship trouble when the tiny bee and his human girlfriend started getting oddly close in a way that would require more than a chat about the birds and the bees with one's kids. Well, Igor falls into a similar category. Not because it's got an off-putting moral, the moral is quite good actually. Not because there's interspecies relationships, unless you consider a girl Frankenstein monster assembled from recycled body parts falling in love with a little hunch-backed dude, interspecies—which you might. Rather, it's because the film spends a lot of time seemingly glorifying the concept of being 'evil'. How so?

The story begins with some background. At some point in the past, the thriving and beautiful Kingdom of Malaria became engulfed in clouds, blocking the sun, preventing the fun, and wrecking the economy, Seattlites beware. Ah but the progressive King Malbert (voiced by Jay Leno) had a plan. Malaria would become the home of the world's greatest evil scientists who would compete on an annual basis to win the evil science fair by building the world's most evil inventions of mass destruction. To make income, then, the world would pay Malaria billions of dollars not to unleash these evil devices. As time passed, evil scientists arose from the landscape in their castle-like towers to build their nasty inventions, each one assisted by a hunch-backed little person called Igor—all Igors are called Igor because what else would they be called. Their masters constantly abuse these little second-class citizens mentally and physically. If they mess up or challenge authority, they are fed down a system of underground tubes to a machine that recycles their body parts. [note: If you're reading this and are already disturbed, you probably shouldn't take a little kid to see this film, right?] Each evil scientist has a girlfriend whom he keeps at arm's length so as she not become too involved in the planning of the next evil invention. Among the Igors, though, there is one very special Igor, named Igor (voiced by John Cusack), who aspires to become an evil scientist, because being an evil scientist is the goal of every small child in Malaria. He dabbles in inventions and creates his own sidekicks: Scamper (voiced by Steve Buscemi)—an immortal rabbit who cannot kill himself despite trying 100s and 100s of clever ways—and Brain (voiced by Sean Hayes)—basically a brain in a jar hooked to a robotic arm and whose brain is perhaps not as brainy as one might have hoped. He doesn't want his evil scientist to discover his inventions for obvious reasons; he's an Igor. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on whose side you're on, his evil scientist is killed in a terrible lab accident. What's Igor to do? Well, he immediately sets out to utilize the laboratory to create his ultimate evil invention that will win the evil science fair and propel him, at last, to greatness and prove that Igors can be evil scientists too. His invention is to create life from scraps and make it evil and capable of destruction without human control. [note: Ok, by now surely you've got to be concerned, if you weren't before, that this is not a film for little kids.] His invention works. She's a giant, monsterously grotesque woman of odd proportions who takes the name of Eva (voiced sweetly by Molly Shannon). Meanwhile, going on during this whole time, there's a evil Dr. Schadenfreude (voiced by Eddie Izzard) who admits freely to his girlfriend that he's been using her for years to steal the best invention of the year so he can win the evil science fair every year. Jaclyn (voiced by Jennifer Coolidge) takes great pride in her accomplishments and in helping Dr. Schadenfreude accomplish this string of victories. To keep her happy, he supplies her with pills that keep her looking young and beautiful, but also allow her to transform into other women. Turns out, she's the girlfriend of every evil scientist, that's how she steals their inventions. Well, of course, Igor's evil scientist's girlfriend, Heidi, has begun to wonder where he is, and also realizes that Igor is going to build his own invention that might turn out to be the best. So, this sets Dr. Schadenfreude on the course of trying to capture Igor's invention. But, Igor's invention has a problem. She's not evil. The 'evil' bone in her body hasn't been activated properly. So, trying to get her turn evil and winning the evil science fair becomes their collective goal.

If you can wait that long, the story does turn out well. (see spoiler) There is a good moral hidden under the clouds of Malaria from which children can learn if they can find it in all the other stuff that goes on and distinguish it from all this talk of being the best evil person in Malaria. In that, the [PG-13] rating should be heeded but in the sense that kids fewer than 13 years old may not comprehend this film at all. They may get mixed messages, and while they may laugh and think parts are funny, there is profound cognitive dissonance between what's being said and what's meant in this script.

… a unique wonder of animated splendor in spite of or on top of the perilously kid-unfriendly nature.
Because of this, many, many people may simply not like this film at all—which is partly too bad because really it's very inventive, clever, and funny on some deeper levels than commonly found in animated films. The characters are richly drawn with complicated emotions and ideals. Virtually every character learns a very important life lesson. The bad part is that to achieve all of this, it had to be done under the auspices of all this evil and, especially, the idea of a cute little character aspiring to be the most evil of all.

The voice cast is exquisite as is the animation. Anthony Leondis has created a unique wonder of animated splendor in spite of or on top of the perilously kid-unfriendly nature. One could argue the film fits quite well in the genre of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales or Roald Dahl stories that were not known for their pleasantries and utilized some terribly creepy imagery. The film will probably appeal, therefore, more to European audiences who've developed keener senses for irony in their fairytales over the centuries and, perhaps, a greater tolerance for the absurd and existential than USAers.

… be advised NOT TO TAKE children to see this film until you've seen it yourself first.
Grown-ups, with the stamina, may enjoy the film in much the same way as they get more out of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas which has now become an annual Halloween tradition than do children actually. Certainly though, be advised NOT TO TAKE children to see this film until you've seen it yourself first. You'll want to be prepared both to explain all this evil and to cover up the eyes during parts that might be too harrowing.

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Other Projects Featuring Igor (2008)
Cast Members
John CusackMatt McKennaJohn Cleese
Steve BuscemiSean HayesEddie Izzard
Jennifer CoolidgeJay LenoMolly Shannon
Christian Slater
Anthony Leondis
Chris McKenna

Review-lite Igor (2008) [max of 150 words]
Urgent: Parents and Guardians are advised to see this film alone before taking young children. While the film is splendidly directed, voice acted, and animated, the story is of an advanced nature that may be disturbing to kids especially with the premise of the leading character, Igor (John Cusack) aspiring to be the most evil scientist of all time. With some harrowing segments and precarious plot points that take relatively a very long time to resolve and get to the film's excellent moral, some preparation before the film when taking younger children would be a great idea, but no substitute to seeing it first.

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