There’s a brilliant little bit of merciless viciousness about three quarters of the way through .
Our titular hunchbacked hero (voiced by John Cusack), and his two sidekicks Brian the Brain in a Jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper the Immortal Rabbit (Steve Buscemi) look like they are about to meet their final fate. They are about to be “recycled.” As it turns out – "Igors" are disposable and replaceable, with emphasis on disposable. The face of the previous Igor our hero replaced now hangs on a wall, used as a bottle-opener by his boss – a prototypical mad scientist.
So here are our heroes, hanging upside down and slowly being transported on an assembly line towards what looks like all kinds of cutting, threshing, tearing, and generally nasty looking stuff. Try as they might, Igor and the Brain can’t reach the off switch, even with Brian’s one extendable arm.
That’s when the machine stops short. They look over at Scamper, who has gnawed off both his feet and stumped over to the switch.
“What?” Scamper snarks. “You think I haven’t done it before? Like rabbit’s feet are lucky anyway.”
You see, Scamper only has one true ambition in life. He wants to die. The problem is being immortal throws one heck of a major monkey wrench.
It’s this kind of humor that makes probably one of the funniest dark comedies of the year. It also marks what should be the debut of a great new director to the feature animation field.
Making its national debut this weekend, is the creation of writer Chris McKenna and Tony Leondis. It recycles the Frankenstein myth in ways that always keeps the viewer off guard, packing a ton of hair-raising thrills and chills as well as some truly spine-tingling gags.
At its roots, one can see this film is Leondis and McKenna’s baby. Leondis already won an Academy Award for Best Direct-to-DVD release with 2005’s . McKenna has been writing for Seth McFarlane’s for the last five years. Together they form a surprisingly hot and bloody mix of sweet and sour, somehow managing to find a new and truly twisted way to mix the Broadway play into the Universal Monster franchise.
Finishing the production crew off is France’s Olivier Besson, a Disney veteran who’s past experience ranges anywhere from the restoration of Uncle Walt and Salvador Dali’s collaboration to and even . For this film, Besson managed to mix the best elements of Disney’s CGI department with the puppetry of Tim Burton/Henry Sellick’s . Yes, there’s plenty of horror running through this film, but it’s handled in a manner that won’t give the kneebiters nightmares. Well, at least too many of them.
The basic plot of the film is simple enough. Set in the country of Malaria, the imaginary kingdom has not seen a spec of sunshine for at least a generation. This makes such things as growing crops and other basic necessities rather difficult. So the evil geniuses that rule the country unite and came up with a brilliant way to solve this problem.
They have an annual contest where each scientist creates the biggest atrocity possible. From there, they blackmail the rest of the world for the tune of $100 billion per annum. It’s been highly successful program.
Now one couldn’t be a self-respecting mad scientist without a hunchback to “pull the switch.” Enter our Igor. He’s the 11th such assistant to work under Dr. Glicktenstein (John Cleese). The job has two major setbacks though. The first is Glicktenstein is a short-tempered nimrod who has never one the annual contest once in his entire career. The second is he blames each failure on his “Igor.”
If that’s not enough, this Igor has one other problem. Brian and Scamper are his creations. If Glicktenstein catches wind of this, he might wind up a kitchen utensil like his predecessor.
But true to form, a series of unfortunate events leaves Igor in charge of the lab. He takes advantage of this opportunity to produce his latest creation, Eva (Molly Shannon). Unfortunately, her “evil bone” doesn’t activate. When trying to brainwash her into being a true weapon of destruction, the gut crunching zombie tape Igor planned to use is replaced by James Lipton’s . Now Igor has a real monster on his hands. One who makes notes to herself to tour the world in her private jet to promote environmental causes and wants to adopt children. Lots and lots of children.
Then there are the other mad scientists, including the ones who will do anything to rule the world.
As it turns out, the voice cast is also top notch. Cusack, Hayes, and Buscemi are razor sharp as this film’s sorta heroic trio. Shannon is also tremendous as the ultimate pre-fab diva. You have to hear her sing “Tomorrow.” It mixes camp, ghastly, and funny in such a way one has to marvel at the work of Leondis, McKenna, and Besson.
Still, the creature that truly steals the show is Scamper. Buscemi provides this ultimate existential rabbit with a mix of crankiness and humor that will leave one on the floor every time he tries to kill himself. If you think the gag with his feet is your kind of sick, wait until you see about five or six other stunts his creators have come up with.
In all, is one of those films that’s going to sneak up on you. It’s mix of horror and humor can at times be blood curdling, but its originality will ultimately be reanimating. Catch it at all costs. You’ll be thrilled you did.