A brief note on Igor

I took my kids Sam (7) and Kit (5) to see Igor this weekend. In my duties as loving father, I am often asked to trundle my kids to see movies that I, in an ideal world, might otherwise decline to take in. Because I want my kids to grow up with a love of going to the movies, I will take them to see anything they want to, assuming it is remotely appropriate for their ages (thus, no Iron Man, which Kit desperately wanted to see, and no Dark Knight). Sometimes this means sitting through a movie that is an inoffensive time-waster (like Space Chimps or Alvin and the Chipmunks or Fly Me to the Moon), and sometimes it means being pleasantly surprised (I took them to see Kung-Fu Panda three times, and one of those times they didn’t even want to go).free stats

Igor, which barely made a dent in the box-office this weekend, took me by surprise. It has a few things going against it: one, it features some character designs that look, literally, like they were fished out of Tim Burton’s wastebasket — if that’s a deal-killer for you, you will cringe and rage throughout the running time of Igor. Two, it has a frantic, antic pace that I associate with bad children’s movies, the sense that if the characters stopped doing pratfalls and pulling faces and ricocheting around the frame for three seconds the kids will grow bored. Three, it looks a little cheap; there’s a reason WALL-E and Kung-Fu Panda look so awesome, it’s because they cost about $150 million more than Igor. The characters in Igor are stiff and plasticky and the seams show on the forty-foot screen (I’m sure it will look just fine on a television, which is where it will likely make most of its income). Four, like the Frankenstein monster at its center, Igor‘s script borrows spare parts from a number of other, better-constructed scripts and features some weakly-motivated plot-lines.

Despite all that, somewhere around the mid-point, Igor suddenly snapped into focus for me and took on its own sweet, demented little identity, with some quicker-than-average wit and somemore-original-than-average characterizations. It’s been promoted as a Dreamworks-style zero-to-hero character comedy, which it does passably. But what the promotions do not mention, and none of the reviewers have mentioned either, is that it is primarily a sharp, astute political allegory. It features a kingdom where a wicked king has convinced his people that the only way for them to make it on the world stage is to turn evil and hold the world for ransom with their evil inventions, an aristocratic class that makes all their money off the hunched backs of the working-class of "Igors" who actually do all the designing and building of their evil inventions, an underclass that involves creatures who are either resentful at being alive or too stupid to grasp that they are, a consumer culture that features brainwashing as a perfectly-acceptable makeover alternative, and an "ultimate weapon" that consists of an enormous patchwork zombie who can destroy anything while dressed in a cute red jumper and singing "Tomorrow" from Annie — when that moment came along, I said "Well, if that doesn’t encapsulate American foreign policy, I don’t know what does." As per our discussion a couple of weeks ago about Hollywood’s reaction to the Bush administration, it’s interesting to me that two of the year’s sharpest political critiques, WALL-E and Igor, have come in the form of animated children’s movies. 

(It also, unexpectedly, illuminates some aspects monster movies for me, featuring a comic duo of a man and fly with switched heads, an invisible man who wears suits with no pants, and the most horrifying monster of all, James Lipton.)



20 Responses to “A brief note on Igor”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    I don’t think I even heard of this, now I want to see it.

    • Todd says:

      It may not have been marketed very strongly to adults. In my house, however, it achieved total demographic penetration of youths aged 0-7. They were quoting lines from it for weeks before it opened.

  2. craigjclark says:

    and the most horrifying monster of all, James Lipton


    I read some mildly positive reviews of this, but they weren’t enough to get me out of this house to go see it. Steve Buscemi as a suicidal reanimated rabbit is an obvious draw, but I have to budget my moviegoing dollar.

    On the other hand, I saw Kung Fu Panda at a drive-in (on a double bill with Indy IV) and was more than just pleasantly surprised. Who would have thought Dreamworks had it in them to produce a worthy animated film that was not wall-to-wall pop culture references?

    • Todd says:

      Kung-Fu Panda blew me away — it marked the first time I’ve ever been moved to actually email studio executives (who have repeatedly turned down pitches from me) to congratulate them on a job well done.

      • greyaenigma says:

        I’ll have to watch Kung-Fu Panda, too. The impression I got from the trailer was that it was one big butt joke.

        • Todd says:

          That was my message to the Dreamworks folks when I wrote to congratulate them. I was dreading Kung-Fu Panda for almost a year before it came out, because the ads were so annoying and made it look so shallow, and then when it did, I was completely blown away.

    • Anonymous says:

      I loved Kung Fu Panda’s look, its superbly staged action set pieces, and especially that glorious 2-D animated opening sequence. Also, Ian McShane doing the Al Swearingen voice, especially in the service of a kids-movie villain who actually has some depth to him, is never a bad thing.

      But I walked out of the theater a little disappointed. I thought that, aside from his great opening narration (“the ten thousand demons of Ten Thousand Demon Mountain!”) Jack Black was kinda neutered. And am I the only one sick of kids’ movies whose only message is “Belieeeeeeve in yourself!”? I found Wall-E just as thrilling, even funnier, and with a far more thoughtful and intelligent central idea.

      — N.A.

      • Todd says:

        Jack Black was definitely neutered, but that’s how it goes in Hollywood. I grew up thinking Buddy Hackett was nothing but a goofy, lovable schlep in kids’ movies — now I find out he was the bluest, most foul-mouthed comic alive in his time.

        • chronoso says:

          what is it about putting blue comedians in childrens shows? case in point, carlin on shining time station.

          also, any thoughts on burn after reading?

        • Anonymous says:

          I didn’t expect Black to be dropping the f-bomb left and right — and I found Kung Fu Panda a lot funnier than the misbegotten embarrassment that was the Tenacious D movie. I just thought they’d let him add a little self-aggrandizing rocket sauce to his character, is all. Po just seemed so blandly lovable, when he might have been even funnier as the overconfident, well-intentioned jerk Black usually plays.

          — N.A.

  3. faroffstar says:

    Kung-Fu Panda was awesome. I think I laughed more during that movie then the “hit comedy” Tropical Thunder.

  4. jbacardi says:

    This is actually playing this week at the local small-town 8-screen theater, and believe me, it doesn’t usually screen under-the-radar flicks, even with the Burton pedigree (Ed Wood was a no-show in the entire region here). It kinda made me want to see it, just because of that, but I’m sure it will be gone by Thursday so I’ll just wait for the DVD and Netflix it.

    • Todd says:

      Well, it doesn’t actually have the Burton pedigree — that’s one of the movie’s problems. It’s kind of “borrowing” the Burton pedigree without permission. I’m sure it will be arriving on DVD shortly.

      • jbacardi says:

        Well, actually I meant that this theater often won’t show any under-the-radar film no matter who the director or star is- another example is Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which actually prompted me to complain to the manager, which had about the effect you’d expect…

        • Todd says:

          Jesus, where do you go to see movies then?

          • jbacardi says:

            I live in a very small community in south central Kentucky- there is one 8-screen theater in Glasgow, KY (they’re actually showing Burn After Reading, I see- they’re spotty on Coen flicks too) about 10 miles away, and there are two bigger ‘plexes in Bowling Green, 35 miles away, which are better about their offerings (college town, after all) but it’s not all that convenient to drive down there these days, especially now that I don’t work in that town anymore.

            Thank God for Netflix, that’s all I can say!

  5. monica_black says:

    The advertisements on television (that were usually on during House reruns on USA) made it not seem that interesting. In terms of the animation, it looks like it seems suitable for the film.

    Hey, James Lipton did turn 82 recently.