Paramount // 1992 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 8th, 2003
Holli Would if she could.
Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne, Ghost Ship) spent much of his life in prison creating the comic book "Cool World." Now that Jack's free from incarceration he's about to visit his creation -- in the flesh! The Cool World actually exists, and its alter-dimension features an assortment of animated characters that bluster, screech, and flap across the landscape. The Cool World is an insane mess, and as such needs someone enforcing the law. Enter detective Frank Harris (a pre-stardom Brad Pitt), a hardened cop who was sucked into the Cool World after a motorcycle accident that took his mother's life and gave him years of much needed therapy. Since that tragedy, Frank hasn't had any interest in going back to the real world, and why would he when he's got a sweet animated girlfriend and a cushy job in the Cool World? Unfortunately, Frank and his sweetie aren't allowed to have sex -- one of the cardinal rules of Cool World is no nookie between humans and doodles (as the inhabitants of Cool World are affectionately referred to). This doesn't stop Holli Would (voiced by Kim Basinger), an animated sex pot who wants nothing more than to enter the real world. After she seduces Jack and enters real life Las Vegas, Frank finds himself in a race to stop Holli from obtaining a magical spike at the top of a casino that could thrust Cool World and earth into headlong chaos!
One gets the feeling while watching Cool World that the makers were looking for the second coming of Roger Rabbit. In that superior movie, Robert Zemeckis successfully mixed live action actors and detailed animation into a very enjoyable yarn. No such luck with director Ralph Bakshi's unfocused Cool World, a movie so ineptly made that it often boggles the mind. While the cast includes then-up and comer Brad Pitt and blonde starlet Kim Basinger, it feels as if everyone has been wasted on a screenplay that makes absolutely no sense. There are dozens upon dozens of characters in the Cool World (freaky bunnies, talking telephones, mutated babies), yet none of them are even remotely interesting. Aside of Holli Would (played flatly by Basinger), the cheaply rendered 'toons are all a flurry of annoying activity, gnashing teeth, and odd movement -- it seems as if Bakshi's only desire is to fill the screen with as many obnoxious things as possible.
The story, or what there is of it, makes little sense -- the protagonist(s) must stop Holli from acquiring a magical spike at the top of a Las Vegas casino that will turn the Cool World and normal world upside down...or something like that. It feels as if chunks of the screenplay were discarded every fourth scene by some menacing, anonymous editor. Animation fans will surely recognize Bakshi's unique talent from such 1970s cult classics as Fritz The Cat and the animated feature length version of Lord of the Rings, two better movies -- which isn't saying much. In Cool World, the director shows a flair for activity, but not cohesive thought -- the bottom line is that there is just too much going on visually and not enough intellectually inside the story. This is a shame since Cool World feels as if it could have been something special, quite possibly the darker side of Roger Rabbit.
If you're in the mood for a confusing journey into the absurd, you may get your kicks with this flick. Otherwise, Cool World is exactly the opposite of its name.
Cool World is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This isn't a very impressive transfer -- the image is often filled with small amounts of grain and other imperfections. The colors were often well rendered and bright, but the black levels sometimes retained a soft gray to them. Certainly this is the best Cool World has ever looked, which is sad considering that it's only a bit over a decade old. The soundtrack is presented in a far better Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English. There were multiple instances where all of the surround speakers were engaged by either Mark Isham's jazzy music score or the sounds and screeches of the Cool World inhabitants. Also included on this disc are Dolby 2.0 Surround mixes in English and French, as well as English subtitles.
As is the case with most Paramount catalog titles, Cool World doesn't feature a single bonus feature. Not that I'm complaining.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13