I was disappointed with the animation montage shown at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. The presentation was incomplete, as it did not include the well-done Igor, which was released in the fall and has just come out on DVD. Having missed it in the theaters (much to the chagrin of my 7-year-old son), when I finally had the opportunity to watch the film on DVD, I wish I could have seen it on the big screen. Igor is a visually wonderful movie that contains outstanding performances by the entire cast, is strange yet very humorous, and an actual message that isn’t too preachy (hello WALL-E, I’m talking to you).
John Cusack, in a rare lighthearted performance (it reminded me of his early ’80s work like Better Off Dead), stars as the titular character, a hunchbacked assistant to Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese). Igor lives in a country of evil scientists involved with an annual evil invention contest held by their ruler, the sneaky Prince Malpert (Jay Leno). Dr. Glickenstein is an idiot and Igor ends up covering for his mistakes. When the doltish doctor dies, Igor decides to prove once and for all that all Igors are not alike and that he is as smart as any other evildoer. With the help of two sidekicks (that he created), Brain, a lamebrain in a jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper, a cynical bunny who can’t die (Steve Buscemi), Igor creates Eva (Molly Shannon), thinking she will be the ultimate mean monster — but instead, she’s a sweet creation who loves show tunes.
Initially, Igor tries to turn Eva evil, but he is soon swayed by her sweetness and eventually falls in love with her. Unfortunately, the truly evil Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) and his shape-shifting girlfriend, Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge), get their hands on Eva and plan to use her to win the competition. It’s up to Igor and his sidekicks to save Eva – and their country – from real evildoers.
From the beginning, you’ll notice that Igor has a wonderful, unique look, something resembling Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. This Goth/horror approach to the characters makes the film appear very dark. Indeed, there is never an ounce of sunlight until the very end of the movie. To make up for what could be a dreary viewing experience, director Tony Leondis and writer Chris McKenna have crafted a smart, goofy film that uses their actors to the fullest. In addition to Cusack in rare form, you have Hayes and Coolidge shed the images of their most popular roles to create wholly original characters. And of course, Buscemi displays his usual sardonic wit. Furthermore, Molly Shannon brings out the kindness of Eva that carries over into the rest of the film. The interaction between Igor and Eva is genuine and touching, as moving as any Pixar movie in the last couple years.
Most of all, Igor is just plain funny, especially for older kids and their folks. However, I would not recommend Igor to any child under the age of six, as the film can get scary and the themes of the movie are a little mature for young ones. Perhaps you may not rush out to buy Igor, but I definitely recommend the film the next time the whole family sits down for movie night.
The Igor DVD is presented in widescreen and full screen with English Dolby Surround 5.1 sound and includes bonus features such as deleted scenes, bloopers and “Be An Igor” featurette.