Animal Room is one of those movies where you ask yourself why have they wasted time making this film when they could have just made a commercial for anger management and the danger of violence? The film directed by Craig Singer is sort of a The Breakfast Club meets Rock 'n' Roll High School meets A Clockwork Orange without the mainstream camp of the first two or the truly disturbing dramatics of the other.
Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser himself) plays Arnold - a four-eyed (somewhat)nerdy kid who has turned to substance abuse due to his dysfunctional family life and who gets put into a school basement detention room with a bunch of bad eggs. His counselor knows that he shouldn't be there and so do we and it's just a matter of time before the evil kids in detention beat him up. Really, though, only one disturbed bully named Doug Van Housen (played by Matthew Lillard) turns out to be Arnold's bęte noire.
The performances are all over the place. Most of the gang kids are annoyingly over-the-top and Neil Patrick Harris and Gabriel Olds (who plays Gary his best friend) give rather flat performances. Lillard (who plays Shaggy in Scoopy Doo) is the best actor here even though he gives a one-note performance. This couldn't have been much of a challenge for him but I'm sure that he enjoyed the one dream-like sequence where he is made up to look dead and has maggots crawling from his mouth.
The problem with the film is that it tries to provoke anger or outrage in the audience but it doesn't have the ability to engage the audience enough to do this since it is so hackneyed with cliché's. In the end the film turns dark as a way to make it all seem legitimate: Arnold kills himself, Van Housen gets beat up by Gary and the cops come and accidentally shoot Gary dead.
At least Director Singer hired the right people in the production departments because the cinematography, the editing and the use of music are the only worthy things in the film.
The audio is presented in Dolby surround sound and sounds very good.
The film is presented 1.66:1 and looks clear and sharp. The cinematography looks very clean (maybe too clean considering the subject matter) and some of the shots are quite well composed. One shot in particular lasts for over two minutes and wends its way through an arcade, through a basement and back outside. The print they used has some splotches but the transfer is good and there very little edge enhancement or compression noticeable.
There are no extras and the DVD also only has six chapters.
This The Breakfast Club meets A Clockwork Orange film is basically a made-for-TV movie that is too harsh to be shown on TV so it went straight to video. The film has some harsh scenes with the main character getting his head flushed in a toilet (A swirley – remember those?) and some other over-the-top violence. The film makes a thematic connection between a nerdy kid and the school's bully while also making a statement about the school systems poor handling of student violence. But since it's neither too campy or genuine enough it ends up just being annoying.