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Cool World

Shout Factory // PG-13 // September 13, 2022
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted September 27, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

A wonderfully weird and horny movie that could only have come from the wonderfully weird and horny Ralph Bakshi, 1992's Cool World, a mix of live action and traditional cell animation not unlike Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in that regard, is essentially a film noir, albeit one where a good chunk of the cast is made up of cartoon characters.

The story revolves around Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne), a man who spends ten years in prison, and while in the slammer, created a popular comic book series called Cool World whose lead character was a sex pot named Holli Would (Kim Basinger). It was a form of escape for him while doing time and something to do to pass the time. Jack's been having visions of Holli for some time, where she wants to escape from Cool World into the real world and become a flesh and blood human being. The only way that this can happen is if a ‘doodle' (what the inhabitants of Cool World call one another) has sex with a human. Holli winds up pulling Jack into Cool World in an attempt to seduce him and be made flesh.

However, Jack isn't the only human in Cool World. A World War II veteran named Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) has been stuck there for decades after getting into an accident on his motorcycle that left his mother dead. Since then, he and his partner, Nails (Charlie Adler), have been working as detectives for the Cool World police department. He warns Jack straight up not to have sex with Holli as it would wreak havoc not only in Cool World but the real world as well. But Jack is weak and before you know it, Holli has escaped into the real world and is alive and well in Las Vegas of all places. Frank, however, is also in love with a ‘doodle' in the form of Lonette (Candi Milo) but, so far at least, has kept things pretty much plutonic.

Holli, however, wants to stay in human form permanently, and tells Jack that to do this she needs to find the ‘Spike Of Power,' leaving Jack to team up with Frank to try and set everything right.

A notorious box office flop when it hit theaters in 1992, Cool World has rightly gone on to develop a pretty sizeable cult following, and revisiting the movie thirty years after it was made, it isn't too hard to see why. Tonally it's all over the place, skirting around R-rated content to stay within the confines of the PG-13 rating that Paramount wanted Bakshi and company to bring home, but never quite feeling like a movie for teenagers. Stylistically, the movie is pretty impressive, however, with Bakshi having given his animation team almost free reign to handle things the way that they felt was best. This gives the animated sequences a sense of unpredictably that definitely works in the movie's favor. The animated sequences are also done in Bakshi's style, which means we get plenty of exaggerated characters placed atop some impressively detailed illustrated backgrounds in these scenes that are really cool to see. Also, note that they used real comic books on display in the comic book store (Starlin and Wrightson's Batman: The Cult is visible on the wall in a scene), which is always a nice touch.

The cast does decent work. Basinger is perfect to first voice and then embody Holli Would. She looks fantastic here and her voice oozes enough sex appeal to really work in the animated sequences, especially when you keep in mind that she would seem to be intentionally playing a cliché in the film. Byrne is pretty fun to watch as the perpetually confused cartoonist whose famous creation comes to live while Pitt is fine as the hardboiled detective cliché.

That all said, the plot is pretty lose, the characters (intentionally or not) clichés and the pacing all over the place. Some of the gags work, some of them don't and while the soundtrack (featuring contributions from David Bowie, Thompson Twins, Ministry, The Cult, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Moby, Brian Eno and more) is pretty cool, it can sometimes overshadow the storyline making the movie feel less like a movie and more like an extended music video. Still, the animation here is really impressive and while a tighter plot and better storytelling definitely would have helped, Cool World winds up being weird enough in its own right to make it worth seeking out for fans of cult cinema or Bakshi's unique visual style.

The Video:

Cool World arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Overall, this looks really solid. Detail is quite strong and the image shows no noticeable print damage, while retaining a decent amount of natural film grain, as is to be expected. Colors really pop, they look great, and we get strong black levels as well. There's no problems with any noise reduction, compression or edge enhancement issues and, generally speaking, this is a really strong looking presentation.

The Audio:

Audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound and 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles available in English only. Both tracks sound quite good, with the 5.1 doing a nice job of spreading out the effects and the score pretty effectively. There are no issues with balance, hiss or distortion and the dialogue is always clean, clear and easy to understand.

The Extras:

The Wild Minds Of Cool World is a new twenty-two minute retrospective look back at the making of the feature that includes exclusive interviews with Ralph Bakshi, Kim Basinger and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. and it's a pretty interesting watch. It opens with Basinger talking about how Bakshi has a 'wild mind' before Mancuso talks about how he came to work with Bakshi on the movie, while Bakshi himself talks about where some of the ideas for the movie came from and how he came to get it made. He also shows off some great pre-production artwork that was used to generate interest in the project and to show off the noir aspects of the movie. They note that Bakshi had to tone things down a bit to get studio backing for the project, what changed bit by bit as the project evolved, where the name Holli Would came from, how Basinger embodied her character in so many ways, the collaborative aspect of the production, how much they wanted to push the envelope in terms of sexuality and knowingly cashing in on the success of Roger Rabbit despite gearing the movie to an adult audience. Lots of talk here about the reality of partnering with a studio on a project like this, the influence of underground cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Spain Rodriguez, bringing Pitt and Byrne into the production and what they were like to work with, difficulties that arose during the making of the movie, the different background artists that Bakshi brought in to work with, how in some ways the movie was made more for animators than a traditional audience, putting the soundtrack together and how the movie was received. Great stuff, this is really interesting, well-made and definitely worth watching.

Two trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection options round out the extras on the disc.


Cool World is not without its problems but it's a visually impressive move that makes decent use of a good cast. Go into this one for the visuals rather than the storytelling and you'll probably leave with a smile on your face. The Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory looks and sounds very good and while it isn't stacked with extras, the new documentary is both fascinating and illuminating, shedding a lot of light on the film's troubled production history. A nice upgrade for fans of the movie and to that group, it comes 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.

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