MGM // 2008 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // January 20th, 2009
All men aren't created Evil.
It is always a dark and stormy night in the kingdom of Malaria -- 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There are only two classes of people in this dreary land: evil scientists and the hunchbacked Igors who serve them. But one Igor (John Cusack, High Fidelity) aspires to transcend his class and become an evil scientist. He secretly works on his own inventions, which happen to be far superior to those of Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese, A Fish Called Wanda), the inept evil scientist he serves. When Glickenstein falls prey to his own stupidity, Igor decides to submit his own invention to the annual Evil Science Fair. With the help of two of his previous inventions -- an immortal suicidal bunny named Scamper (Steve Buscemi, Fargo), and a none-too-bright brain in a jar named Brain (Sean Hayes, The Bucket List) -- he creates life in the form of a hulking brute named Eva (Molly Shannon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Unfortunately, the evil bone in Eva's body malfunctions, leaving her a gentle giant who won't harm a fly. A mishap during a brainwash intended to imbue her with evil exposes her to an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, giving her thespian aspirations. Meanwhile, Igor's dream is endangered when famed evil scientist, perennial winner of the science fair, and invention thief Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) discovers that this unique hunchback has created life. But Eva may prove instrumental in exposing a scheme hatched by King Malbert (Jay Leno, Tonight Show) to maintain his power over the people of Malaria.
Igor didn't deserve to bomb at the box office, but it's no wonder that it did. For a family flick, it's bleak and vicious as a knife wound. Its dark charms include a scrawny, hideous bunny rabbit who repeatedly tries to off himself with methods gleaned from old Looney Tunes shorts; a cartoon re-enactment of the Ludovico treatment from A Clockwork Orange; a brain in a jar so stupid that he labels himself "Brian"; and references to entertainment industry inside baseball ranging from a diva mad scientist who dresses like Elton John circa 1973, a brief segment mocking the pretentious pontificating of celebrity interviewer James Lipton, a climax that includes a gigantic, asymmetrical bride of Frankenstein singing "Tomorrow" from Annie while thrashing an army of invading monsters, and a denouement featuring a group of blind orphans singing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." Even the fable's moral is skewed and black for a kid's movie: We all have evil bones in our bodies, but we can choose to do good despite them. The movie is utterly absurd, yet surprisingly intelligent, well acted, and genuinely funny.
A caution to parents: Igor is loaded with caustic, hard-edged dialogue that makes it slightly inappropriate for the young children who ought to be one of its prime demographics (there's no profanity, but there are many examples of the sort of glib insults that become exponentially less charming and funny when repeated by a five-year-old). The movie is probably best suited for the 8-and-up crowd.
Igor's animation is surprisingly good considering it was produced by a French computer animation team whose most notable prior work was the Disney Channel's cheap-looking Rolie Polie Olie. The movie's settings are appropriately dark, twisted, and gothic. The characters have a smooth sheen and blocky design more reminiscent of stop-motion figures than computer designed humans. The stylized look fits the story to a tee. All of it comes across beautifully on DVD. The entire feature is rendered in rich detail and deep, fully saturated colors. The presentation is 1.85:1 anamorphically-enhanced widescreen. If the final DVD looks anything like the pre-release screener copy I watched, viewers will have little to complain about.
Audio is presented in a pristine Dolby 5.1 surround mix that offers crystal clear dialogue, a well mixed score, and crackling thunder and lightning.
Extras are fairly limited. Director Tony Leondis, writer Chris McKenna, and producer Max Howard provide an interesting feature-length audio commentary. There's also an alternate opening sequence and a gallery of concept art.
Igor isn't a future classic (not even close), but it didn't deserve the brief run in theaters and rapid descent into oblivion that it received. Movie fans' appetites for animation had apparently been sated by WALL-E and Kung Fu Panda by the time Igor landed in theaters in September of 2008. Too bad. Anyone looking for family-friendly entertainment (for older kids) that is smart, funny, and out of the ordinary should catch up with Igor on DVD.
Pull the switch, Igor!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Alternate Opening
* Art Galleries
* Official Site