I Married a Strange Person
Directed by Bill Plympton. Voices by Charis Michelsen, Tom Larson, Richard Spore, Toni Rossi. (1997, NR, 74 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 11, 1998
I wonder about Bill Plympton's childhood sometimes. Was he indeed raised by nitrous-huffing aliens with oversized red rubber honkers, as his work indicates? Or is it just a simple case of too many El Marko fumes in too small a work environment? We'll probably never know the truth; suffice to say that the Portland-based animator is head and shoulders above Spumco, Spike and Mike, and yes, even hometown boy Mike Judge when it comes to creating the weirdest, wildest, most sublimely outré cartoons in the world and, presumably, elsewhere. Let's face it: The guy's a loon. But he's our loon, and thank God for that. This new feature by Plympton continues in his ongoing vein of inspired lunacy, mixing an improbable storyline with the artist's jerky animation style and outlandish visual puns. And while Plympton has always been best taken in small doses, I Married a Strange Person holds together for much of its 74-minute running time, leaving your head reeling with some of the most bizarre images yet committed to film. Lantern-jawed Grant and his sexy, black-bobbed wife Kerry find their marriage on the brink of collapse after a mysterious ray from the couple's satellite dish zaps Grant while he's watching TV one day. The ray creates a tumor, or lobe, on the back of Grant's neck which allows him to realize anything he can think of (for example, a torrent of insects erupting from his mother-in-law's jabbering mouth), and before long the couple are on the outs. It's all just too much for Kerry (“What's with Grant,” she understandably wonders. “Is he a robot? Or possibly the Antichrist?”) On the plus side, Grant is being pursued by the evil Smile Corporation, a media conglomerate headed by the evil Larson Giles, eager to steal Grant's newfound super powers for use in his own nefarious purposes. Add to this a washed-up Catskills comic by the name of Solly Jim, the obsequious talk-show host Jackie Jason, and more running gags that you can shake a marmot at, and you've got prime Plymptonia. Plympton has always scored big with his ability to transform the human body into literalisms; here he twists the libido of his characters, allowing Grant to alter his wife during the act of love: She's a nun, a Hottentot, a giant, flaming breast, et cetera. No wonder this marriage is on the verge of collapse. Absurdist comedy of this sort is rarely seen these days -- Plympton strip-mines Dadaist territory, but for all the hullabaloo his tales are innately sweet. There may be viscera zipping through the air and bulbous, olive drab army tanks frantically humping each other, but it's all done with childlike good humor, a Plympton staple. Seventy-four minutes of Plympton is pushing it even for the hard core fans, but the cause-and-effect comedy of the animator is so inspired that you make it through unscathed and unbored. True, your head may be spinning a bit, but just think how Bill Plympton's must feel. It's all good.