Opens: Friday, Sept. 19 (MGM).
Everyone wants to get into the potentially lucrative animation game, and "Igor" illustrates the intriguing internationalization of the genre. The often striking animation was designed at the Sparx Animation Studios in Paris, with a large staff of Vietnamese artists. Although the visuals tantalize and the actors providing the voices add a lot of sass, the result is only so-so. Boxoffice prospects look to be modest at best.
Screenwriter Chris McKenna says he was inspired more by Frankenstein movies than by sunnier Disney cartoons. The story takes place in the kingdom of Malaria, where evil scientists rule, aided by their hunchbacked servants, known as Igors. But one of these Igors (voiced by John Cusack) dreams of advancing beyond his rank. When his master dies, Igor decides to enter the annual Evil Science Fair himself and burst the bounds of servitude. Rivals try to foil his plans before the inevitable happy ending.
The animation style, drenched in darkness, owes more to "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" than to recent Pixar hits. The visual style grows a bit monotonous, but a more serious problem is that the story is undernourished, and the wit erupts only in flashes. Although Molly Shannon does what she can with Eva, the monster who dreams of being an actress, the script could use more wickedly satirical touches.
The cast, however, is top-notch. Cusack brings his distinctive neurotic humor to Igor. Steve Buscemi has many of the best lines as Cusack's cynical rabbit assistant, and Sean Hayes is droll as the talking brain with a substandard IQ. Eddie Izzard is marvelously sinister as Igor's nemesis, the power-mad Dr. Schadenfreude, and Jennifer Coolidge is delectable as his conniving accomplice. Jay Leno even has an amusing role as the unctuous king of Malaria. They all bring what life they can to a party that too often droops and drags.
Production: Exodus Film Group.
Voices: John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Jennifer Coolidge, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Molly Shannon, Christian Slater, Jay Leno. Director: Tony Leondis. Screenwriter: Chris McKenna. Producers: John D. Eraklis, Max Howard. Rated PG, 85 minutes.
Executive producer: Jean-Luc De Fanti.
Art director: Olivier Besson.
Music: Patrick Doyle.
Editor: Herve Schneid.