Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) John Cusack, Molly Shannon, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, John Cleese, Jennifer Coolidge, Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Christian Slater
Written by: Chris McKenna
Directed by: Anthony Leondis
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language
Running Time: 87
Date: 09/19/2008

Igor (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Monster Clash

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The horror and family genres make an uneasy combo. Very few movies have successfully married the two; you'd have to go all the way back to MadMonster Party? (1969) for a halfway decent one. The trouble is that themiddle ground between the two is very narrow, and the results are eithertoo scary or too harmless. The new computer-animated feature Igor triesto have it both ways by cramming vicious black humor into the rigidconfines of a kiddie-friendly "be yourself" formula. The pair somehowmanages to uneasily co-exist; some of the nasty jokes may seem shockingwith young ones around, but they'll keep adults awake through theutterly, painfully familiar three-act snoozefest in which yet anothercharacter finds his place in the world by learning to accept himself.

The story is set in a perpetually cloudy kingdom that makes a living by blackmailing the world with the deadly winning creation at the annual "evil science fair." John Cusack provides the voice of the hunchbacked title character, a mad scientist's assistant who dreams of inventing. When his master (voiced by John Cleese) meets with an accident he gets his chance: he comes up with Eva (voiced by Molly Shannon), a supposedly evil monster that accidentally turns out good. Steve Buscemi steals the picture as a cynical, suicidal -- but immortal -- rabbit named Scamper. Looking wiry and bedraggled, his acid line readings provide the movie's best and darkest laughs. He's the perfect antidote to the all-too-predictable story arc.

Director Anthony Leondis gets by with passable animation saved by imagination. The characters have little facial detail, but their radical designs (such as Eva's grotesquely mismatched arms) help. And while the fast-paced action sequences are fairly clunky, the gothic backgrounds improve them. But the movie's weirdest victory is coaxing expert performances out of a roster of potentially annoying actors: Shannon, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Eddie Izzard, Sean Hayes and Jennifer Coolidge. Their line readings mesh perfectly with talented vets like Cusack and Buscemi. So, while Igor wrestles with the good and bad sides of his conscience, the movie also wrestles between good and bad -- and that battle is often more interesting.

DVD Details: MGM's 2009 DVD release comes with a commentary track (director Leondis, writer McKenna and producer Max Howard), an alternate opening scene (3 minutes, a tribute to Citizen Kane), art galleries and trailers.

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