Igor is just such a student of The Nightmare Before Christmas and a lot of other, more recent animated flicks (mostly CGI in nature). This one, however, falls just short of the mark in delivering said "dark" comedy while maintaining its accessibility. Many out there might see advertisements for Igor and expect another Nightmare in the vein of, say, James and the Giant Peach. But... that's not what you get here.
John Cusack, as our Title Character, brings us up to speed in an opening narration to this CGI Farce by explaining that years ago his home country called "the Kingdom of Malaria" (really) was overrun by dark clouds, destroying their economy and making agriculture an impossibility. Therefore, their leader King Malbert (Jay Leno) immediately convinces the entire nation that the only logical way for them to all survive is for them to become terrorists. Malarian Inventors became clichéd "Mad Scientists", each assigned one of a breed of Hunch-Backed lab Assistants all conveniently named Igor. Together, these psychos build horrendous weapons of mass destruction that can kill everyone, thus forcing every other nation on Earth to pay them big bucks not to use them. Oh, okay, yeah, that's Logical! The sun doesn't shine here, so we'll all blackmail the globe. Got it! No leap there whatsoever.
Cusack's Igor, however, is a good and brilliant little guy. Still he was forced to live down to his potential due to his physical constraints, becoming a lab lackey in the service of evil Doctor Glickenstein (John Cleese) instead of becoming his own mad scientist. So, naturally he gets our sympathy right away. Poor little guy doesn't get to create his own WMDs with which to blackmail the world. Sniff... Sniff!
The logic leaps don't end there, however. In the wild hope of winning the "Evil Science Fair" (thus obtaining legitimacy as a Mad Scientist in his own right), Igor sets out to perfect his own evil weapon (complete with an "Evil Bone"). His plan (which impresses even Malbert) is to "CREATE LIFE"! Okay... first of all, haven't they established that they want to destroy life? Second of all, why is this so amazing, seeing as how Igor has already done that twice? He's got a living brain in a jar (Sean Hayes' appropriately named Brain) who rolls around giving silly advice in a makeshift robot body and he's also created a Zombie Rabbit named Scamper (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who, we are casually informed, is "Immortal". Why not enter them into the competition. You've created IMMORTAL LIFE! What? Canned Neuron clusters and Undead Bunnies aren't evil enough?
Well okay, then.
Igor's little pet project has to be impressive to not only win, but to outwit the thieving Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) before he boggarts it for his own. When Schadenfreude has assistants like Jaclyn and Heidi (both voiced by Jennifer Coolidge), outwitting him might not be easy. Still, Igor's creation does come to life as a gigantic, yet doll-like Frankenstein of Flesh. The problem is that this patchwork "Monster" who names herself Eva (voiced by "superstar" Molly Shannon) isn't Evil, but as gentle as can be... to the point that her first "Mindless Rampage" includes a pit stop to entertain blind orphans!
Sound cute? Well, it is. But cute doesn't cut it for long. As the plot grinds on we find the lesson that "We don't HAVE to choose EVIL" just looming above us in a way that feels both preachy and insincere, considering the subject matter that we've been handed and asked to swallow up until this point. The bottom line here is that this film is not terribly appropriate for kids, specifically small ones. There are a few deaths in this movie that are played for laughs and while these aren't terribly graphic, there are a number of graphic threats and descriptions (if not "depictions") of torture and murder. Further, there are a few parts that littler kids might find scary and disturbing, particularly toward the end of the film. The "uplifting" message here seems almost tacked on, considering what came before.
To be fair, there are a few good laughs here, mostly surrounding Buscemi's Scamper, an ironically endearing character. There are also a few moments that do feel at once heartwarming and interesting. These, coupled with a few moments of animated beauty make the film mostly watchable. However, the film is much less than the sum of its parts. The overall result feels like a series of gags that don't rise above the trite nature of the story by Chris McKenna. Director Anthony Leondis also seems to work on a coherent theme, while juggling the varied divergent parts of this tale.
The task is Sisyphean at best, however, because so many of these elements were borrowed from a great many other sources that don't always go well together. There are a lot of obvious references to Classic Universal Scary Movies here (after all, the character of "Igor", originally "Ygor", was popularized in those very films)! The main plot and "lesson" are straight out of Shrek without quite enough of the innocent humor to prop up the contrived love story and quest aspects here. Further, a few of the character designs seem to be more than a little inspired by characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas! All told the "references" feel a bit less like "tributes" than "rip-offs".
In short, it's not all bad but it's also not as good as it could have been expected to be considering the potential for spoofs, Computer Animation and star-loaded cast (Christian Slater, Arsenio Hall and Zoë Bright also lend their voices here). There may be those who find a lot to love in this irreverent dark comedy, especially considering that the main characters are hard not to like. Those with smaller kids who want to stay nightmare-free might want to look for a slightly less irreverent comedy with a little less darkness. Either way, I'm giving Two and One Half Stars out of Five to the half-baked misfire that is Igor. Yeah, there are some good points, but man alive it could have been better. So until your next science experiment goes horribly wrong and you find my now Zombie-Like visage following you around asking for Oreos, I'll see you in the next reel.
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