Directed by Anthony Leondis (the same man who brought us Lilo & Stitch 2!) 2008's Igor is the story of the titular hunchback (voiced by John Cusack) who toils day in, day out as a laboratory assistant for a mad scientist whose base of operations happens to be in the dismal, dreary and dark land of Malaria. Igor, however, is not all that happy in his role as a laboratory assistant and he hopes to blow the mad scientific community's mind one day with his own developments in the wide world of creature creation.
Igor toils away on his own project and eventually decides he's ready to unveil his creation - a female monster named Eva (Molly Shannon) - but she turns out to be far, far to kind and caring and Igor is left wondering what to do about his creation and about his own ambition, not only in terms of where he wants his life to go but in terms of how he'll become part of the scientific community who see him merely as a peon.
A strange animated mix of Tim Burton's stop motion animated films and the old Universal classis horror films with maybe a welcome does of Hammer Horror gothic style, Igor wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. While a lot of the characters are completely predictable clichés to those who have seen the pictures that inspired it, younger viewers to who this movie has been marketed to, likely won't notice or even care. Sure the movie borrows a bit here and there but despite that obvious issue (call it a flaw if you like, as it does take away from the movie a bit), it's hard not to get sucked in just a little bit. Igor himself is a likeable enough character and Cusack does a fine job supplying a completely appropriate voice for him. Other voice actors, like John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno and of course Molly Shannon all add to the fun but Cusack is the one who really carries the film and he does a good job of it.
One of the best aspects of Igor is the bizarre character development that you'll see throughout the film. At times reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas by way of a preschooler's cut and paste imaginative tactics, Igor is a really unique looking film. There's again, a very obvious nod to the films that Universal was churning out in Hollywood's heyday, with plenty of ornate laboratories, lightning rods, test tubs and electrodes to catch the eye, but they've been given an artsy and at times almost minimalist face lift here. It might sound conflicting, but it works - the movie really benefits from some exceptional character and background design work.
This is, as is noted in the commentary, a movie about 'standing up' and on that level Igor is actually fairly inspiring. You can't help but want Igor to make a go of it, he's a likeable guy who deserves his fair shot at the big time just as we all do. If these more inspired moments make the script feel a little cliché ridden or corny to adult viewers, keep in mind it's really a film meant for younger audiences and compared to most of the generic fodder out there designed to dull the sense of today's younger viewing audience, Igor at least presents a positive message with style. Grown ups will dig the Universal Monster's vibe while kids will no doubt appreciate the simple story, neat animation, and physical/slapstick humor. It isn't perfect by any stretch, but Igor is one of those rare films that can entertain a mutitgenerational audience.
Fox has sent a watermarked test disc for review that some mild compression artifacts but otherwise looks okay. The film is presented in 1.85.1 progressive scan anamorphic widescreen and boasts nice color reproduction and fine detail levels. That said, we'll assume based on the water marks that this does not represent what the final retail disc will look like and change our grade accordingly when a finished disc is made available to properly evaluate. As it stands now, however, the test disc does look quite good.
The primary audio track on this release is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix in English with an optional Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround track. Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. The audio is generally very strong with this release. Levels are well balanced and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. There's plenty of activity from the rear surrounds and nice, tight bass response as well. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the bouncy, lively surround sound mix on this release really does a good job of bringing the movie to life.
First up is a commentary track with director Tony Leondis, writer Chris McKenna and producer Max Howard. This track has a sense of humor from the start with the three participants noting the obvious differences in their voices. From there they talk about why the opened with clouds, why you should watch the movie without the commentary on first, and how they went about setting up the land of Malaria. There's some good joking around as well as a far bit of information about some of the set ups and challenges that they ran into while making the film as well as some of the ideas that they originally had and didn't use or changed during the course of the production. They talk about the film's visual style and how certain design elements tried to incorporate the inner workings of a clock, how and why the art director designed the forest the way that we see it portrayed in the picture, and what sort of influences came into play while coming up with design work for the movie. It's interesting to note that influences as varied as the Claude Rains Invisible Man to French painters all worm their way into this picture in various ways, and it's fun to hear the filmmakers elaborate on this in this commentary.
Aside from that, Fox has supplied an amusing alternate opening scene (3:17, anamorphic widescreen), concept art galleries covering characters, set and production designs, storyboards and posters, and last but not least, and trailers for Angel Wars: The Messengers and Garfield's Pet Force. The trailer for the feature is not included. Animated menus and chapter stops are also included.
Assuming that the transfer on the retail version is up to par, it's not hard to recommend Igor despite some shortcomings. It's a fun family film that pays tribute to some of the classic monster movies that so many of us grew up on. The extras aren't going to blow you away but the commentary is decent and the movie itself is a lot of fun. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.