Let's play a round of "Name that Auteur". Who is the filmmaker who is obsessed with New York, classic films and religious guilt? If you said Woody Allen, you're right, if you said Martin Scorsese, you're right too. Ok, now name the director who is obsessed with old horror movies, asymmetrical design, dark fantastic alternate realities where the villains are far more physically attractive than our hero. Did I mention that these dark visions are normally used for family flicks? Was Tim Burton pretty much the only person that come to mind? That's because Mr. Burton practically has the market cornered on family friendly, goth-lite fare. Which why the new animated film "Igor" will likely be labeled a "Burton-esque affair" at best and a "total rip off" at worst. And that is really too bad, because while there do appear to be a couple of things lifted from Burton's films (the character design for one), this little monster movie deserves a fair shot at your heart, the one in a jar on your desk that is.
At the start of the film we are plunked down into the middle of a world where there are two classes of people. At the high end of the class spectrum are the mad scientists, who get to cackle and wring their hands and shout things like "Pull the switch!" The lower class consists of the eternally downtrodden who are so repressed that they don't even have individual names, they are all called Igor. Their primary functions are to pull the switches that their masters shout about, and to take abuse.
Enter, Igor, more specifically our Igor (John Cusack), we know he's ours because the cutest Igor that were introduced to. Igor is an evil genius in his own right, but as an Igor he's not allowed to invent.His biggest achievements to date are the pair of sidekicks that he has managed to cobble together out of spare parts. There's Scamper (Steve Buscemi) a rabbit that Igor was able to make invulnerable, unfortunately he wants to kill himself. And Brain (Sean Hayes) who is a brain in a jar who thinks he's a genius, he clearly is not. To add insult to injury Igor is forced to work for a mad scientist (John Cleese)who's most evil invention is a tasty lasagna. When his scientist is blown to bits because he wouldn't listen to Igor's advice, our hero finds himself in a unique position. He finally has unfettered access to a mad scientists lab. He decides, along with Brain and Scamper, to take on the status quo an enter his newest creation into the annual evil science fair. His newest creation is a sure fire winner. Life. Evil life that is, in the form of a monstrous stitched together creation who dubs herself Eva (Molly Shannon). The first hiccup in Igor's plan is that Eva is inherently good. Things only get worse when she also decides that she's an actress.
Most of the rest of the action is concerned with a rival scientist named Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) who has gained a position of respect by stealing the plans for the winning entries in the evil science fair year after year. This year the best shot appears to be Eva herself, which leads to a very funny series of poorly planned attacks and botched kidnapping attempts.
I was able to have a pair of co-reviewers in the form of my 5 year old son and 53 year old father for this film. My father who is notoriously hard to please in the realm of film, actually had a good time with this one. My son, who is the real litmus test, did get a little antsy towards the end of the film when a lot of the plottier elements come together. But, the movie still managed entertain him enough that he was quoting it afterwards, and acting out Brain and Scampers goofier moments.
The movie is slower paced than the Dreamworks family of CGI films like the "Shrek" series. It also featured less toilet humor, which as a parent pleased me. Of course the animation also is lesser than its big budgeted brethren, which to my mind should be weighed against the fact this movie has a lot of personality. While certainly not everyones cup of tea, if you have a fondness for black and white creature features and have kids you would like to introduce to the friendlier side of horror movies, I think you should find a lot to like in "Igor".