If Tim Burton sues, you wouldn’t want me on the jury … you’ll lose big time.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/19/2008
Director: Anthony Leondis
Featuring the voices of: John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, Jay Leno, Molly Shannon, Christian Slater, Arsenio Hall

“Igor”, the latest 3D animated flick to come down the pipe and attempt to entice the children of America, is a bit of a mystery to figure out. Sure, it has outlandish characters … only most of them seem to come out of the Tim Burton art school (if he doesn’t get a cut, his lawyers might want to get involved). Sure, it has a romantic subplot … only it’s rather twisted and vaguely disturbing. And sure, the hero of the film is supposed to be the underdog we can all root for … only when was the last time you thought of John Cusack for an animated kids film?

The entire film is full of these contradictions, flirting with both adult and kids’ themes … never really settling into either. If you have small children (and as Elizabeth Edgemont will be happy to talk about), the number of inappropriate moments and character interactions are exactly the kinds of things you tend to teach children not to do. If you’re a teenager, I doubt it’s “cool” to go to animated flicks not based on an Adult Swim cartoon. And if you’re well past the legal drinking limit, the constant push and pull between targeted audiences might keep you from fully engaging in the film. I’m at a loss to figure out exactly what audience the filmmakers are going after at all, really.

“Igor” takes place in the fictional land of Malaria, where the world’s evil scientists have gathered to create all sorts of vicious inventions with which to hold the world ransom each year so they can continue their work. Every evil genius has a lackey to help them with the grunt work … and what better servant to provide in this type of film but a hunchback. Collectively referred to as Igors, these misshapen man-servants are considered a lower class of person and treated like dirt.

Of course, in order to justify making a feature film set within this world, there is one Igor (Cusack) who dreams of overcoming his genetic heritage and being the best evil scientist. When not pulling the switch, the titular Igor is secretly inventing all manners of creatures and only needs an opportunity to show everyone his talents.

What made the film fun for me were his two sidekicks/inventions. First, there was the less than brilliant “Brian/Brain” (voiced by Sean Hayes). His ineptitude drives much of the plot and is only surpassed in twisted humor by Steve Buscemi’s suicidal (but immortal) bunny. Constantly offing himself, only to recover seconds later, provides not only a sick sense of comedy but also some inventive manners of problem solving.

Trying to stop Igor is Dr. Schadenfreude, an evil genius so diabolical, arrogant and preening that only the great Eddie Izzard could do him justice. Just by knowing the meaning of his name (Schadenfreude means the enjoyment of the misfortune of others), you can see what kind of subject material will be flying well above the heads of most kids and landing squarely in the skull cavity of attending adults.

Also landing in the soft part of many adult brains will be the inclusion of Christian Slater and Arsenio Hall’s voice talents … where have these guys been? Sure, Slater’s got that new TV shot, but that’ll probably be canned faster than it takes investors to back away from a sequel to “Mindhunters”.

And perhaps the surest sign that the content of the film won’t exactly be too friendly to the wee people we call children is having the two female leads be voiced by Jennifer Coolidge and Molly Shannon. Neither are known for comedic material too safe for the future leaders of the world and while I typically don’t care for Shannon, her odd stylings worked for the part. Coolidge, of course, was fantastic as the slutty accomplice of Dr. Schadenfreude. Her unique voice lended itself perfectly to be that wonderful mix of sultry, vulnerable and bent (in a good way).

On the negative side, I felt that there were a number of pacing issues with the film, especially towards the end, and I would have preferred the filmmakers either go ultra-cute and child-proof the project or say screw it and make an adult-oriented cartoon. Sadly, I think the need to make a return on the investments behind the film took too much of a priority and the result is a bit of a mess.

If you’re a fan of inappropriate humor in kids films (like Audrey), then I’d recommend the film to you. If you’re a parent of a child under ten or so, you might want to just wait a bit and get the “WALL·E” DVD. I’m going to give “Igor” a gentle nudge up to a 3 out of 5 … as a severely impaired individual, I appreciate the inappropriate nature of much of the film and found a number of laughs escaping my big, dumb head. And for all you Burton heads out there, you’ll have to decide if the very obvious art style will either tick you off or tickle your happy bone … wait … that sounded better in my head … oh, whatever.