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Igor Blu-ray Review

Igor (2008) movie poster Igor

Theatrical Release: September 19, 2008 / Running Time: 86 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Tony Leondis / Writer: Chris McKenna

Cast: John Cusack (Igor), Steve Buscemi (Scamper), Sean Hayes (Brain), Molly Shannon (Eva), Eddie Izzard (Dr. Schadenfreude), Jennifer Coolidge (Jaclyn / Heidi), John Cleese (Dr. Glickenstein), Jay Leno (King Malbert), Arsenio Hall (Carl Cristall), Christian Slater (Dr. Schadenfreude's Igor), James Lipton (Himself)

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Computer-animated features are a dime a dozen nowadays. The market has become so congested with them that audiences don't know where to look to separate the treasures from the trash. Last year saw a whopping 12 films released in this medium domestically. Of those, only five managed to cross the $100 million mark. The independently-produced Igor was one that came and went with little fanfare, despite a solid voice cast roster and a unique theme that set it apart from the crowd.

The film takes place in the land of Malaria, a place where citizens thrive on evil. Numerous mad scientists happen to populate the city, each having his own personal assistant known as an Igor. In this world, Igors aren't born with their signature slurs and mannerisms; they're trained to be that way.
The Igor this particular story focuses on (voiced by John Cusack) wants more than a life of switch-pulling and "Yes, Master"s. His dream has always been to become a mad scientist himself, but his appearance relegates him to Igor status.

When the scientist he assists dies suddenly, Igor takes the opportunity to submit to the Evil Science Fair his own creation under his master's name. He successfully creates life from cobbled-together body parts, but there's a problem: the monster he's created isn't evil. Instead, it takes on the persona of an aspiring actress named Eva (Molly Shannon). With the help of his friends -- Scamper (Steve Buscemi), a sardonic, suicidal rabbit who can't die; and Brain (Sean Hayes), a quirky, floating brain in a jar -- Igor tries to train Eva to become wicked enough before the fair rolls around.

Igor is a hard film to pinpoint. It manages to be both bizarre and ordinary, twisted and cutesy. That's its biggest problem as the movie tries too hard to be different things that don't gel very well. One minute, there is a scene filled with pratfalls and physical gags. The next, a morbid situation arises in which the characters (namely Scamper) will make a very adult remark accordingly. Mixing darkness with comedy has been done effectively elsewhere, but Igor isn't quite sure how to achieve it. Many lines and scenarios feel inappropriate for children while the story and characters are too stale for adults. Credit has to be given to the filmmakers for producing something that's not been sanitized to the point of pandering. That said, either they've should've aimed for something more child-friendly or forgotten little ones and made a dark comedy for adults and older children.

The inconsistent tone frustrates even more when one takes into account the cast and script involved. There's some good talent here, but one gets the feeling they were hired more for bragging rights than anything else. This becomes especially glaring when the vocal work and the character animation fail to truly harmonize. There's also some genuine wit on display that one wishes were used on something more worthwhile. Sarcasm and horror references gently amuse, but they'd be more valuable coming from characters the audience has invested in. That kind of comedy loses its bite when surrounded by either mundane story points or flat-out bizarre ones (the story's climax is easily one of the strangest put on film, animated or otherwise).

Igor has the makings of something noteworthy, but those pieces don't fit together satisfactorily. It stretches itself in so many directions that it can't find its own distinct voice despite the Frankenstein motif. It can't decide if it wants to be a black comedy, a zany comedy, or a smarmy comedy. Blending all three and gluing them together with a children's story results in a product that exists unto itself. It's never terrible, but the fact that something with so many distinct elements can be so anonymous may actually be more of an offense.

Buy Igor on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 (Was $39.99)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Slim-line Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

Igor's Blu-ray presents it in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There's really no excuse for a 2008 computer-generated film not to look flawless in high definition, and Igor meets high expectations. As a fully digital film, there's nary a source flaw to be found, which also means that issues such as DVNR and edge enhancement are a non-issue. If anything, the transfer may be too perfect for its own good, for it makes the movie's low-budget animation a bit more conspicuous.

The 5.1 DTS HD track is equally impressive. Like the tracks to other animated features, this one has the added benefit of being created from individual elements, most of which have a basis in studio sound booths.
As such, the sound field is taken complete advantage of. Effects ranging from thunder to shattered glass are crisp and enveloping. Dialogue and score are also strong, complimenting each other rather than overpowering.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Igor holds a light collection of supplements, starting with an audio commentary by director Tony Leondis, screenwriter Chris McKenna, and producer Max Howard. Considering how midrange the film itself is, this commentary is surprisingly strong. All three men are clearly enthusiastic about the project, with Leondis and McKenna dominating the discussion. Among the topics discussed are color schemes, costume choices, cast ad libs, and the challenges of animating on a small budget. It's a refreshingly honest and lively track that may be more entertaining than the film it's for.

Next comes an alternate opening (3:18). In a rarity for animated features, the work presented here is completely finished. As explained in the aforementioned commentary, this opening was dropped since test audiences had difficulty adjusting to the comedic tone after such a serious opening. The version in the final film not only sets the tone more appropriately, but it handles exposition more clearly and efficiently than what's here. Still, it's an interesting inclusion, especially since deleted scenes that make it all the way to final animation are infrequent.

Finally, there's a robust collection of artwork found in the Concept Art Galleries. These are broken up into Characters (15 stills), Set & Production Design (61 stills), Storyboards (10 stills), and Posters (31 stills). The hard and angular style of the feature actually works better and more organically in the hand-drawn medium than via computers, making this gallery fascinating to explore.

The disc opens with a trailer for Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who!. No trailer for Igor is included.

The main menu is slightly more interesting than most Blu-rays. Mostly static clip art of Igor, Scamper, and Brain stands in front of an animated laboratory background. While most BDs feature a single menu screen with a separately-encoded box for all the selections, Igor does something a bit differently. The menu selections are still separately encoded from the animated background, but instead of popping up as a single box with text, they appear with individual character clipart and designs in a manner that blends with the background. This almost gives off the feel of distinctive menus ala DVD releases instead of the usual disconnected selection box appearing over a looping background.

Inside the standard blue BD case is a leaflet advertising other Fox high-def releases.
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Like the film, the titles advertised lack any sort of unification, ranging from family titles like Horton Hears A Who! to adult features like The French Connection.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Igor is more tolerable than some other animated films, but "tolerable" isn't the type of entertainment people seek out. There a few different decent films hidden within this one, but the mix of varied genres yields something half-baked. At least the Blu-ray's audio/visual quality is excellent, and while the supplements are brief, what's included here is of some substance. Those mildly curious may want to rent this, but it's difficult to recommend a film like Igor when there's no one for it to really cater to.

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From Anthony Leondis: Kronk's New Groove • Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride • Home on the Range

Featuring the Voice Cast of Igor:
John Cusack: Martian Child • The Journey of Natty Gann | Steve Buscemi: Monsters, Inc. | Jay Leno: Cars
Eddie Izzard: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian • The Wild | Molly Shannon: Air Buddies • My Neighbors the Yamadas
Jennifer Coolidge: Epic Movie | John Cleese: Shrek the Third • Valiant | Arsenio Hall: The Proud Family Movie

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Reviewed February 23, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Exodus Film Group, and 2009 Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Images are publicity photos, not Blu-ray screencaps.