Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation '94

1994 Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Feb. 18, 1994

Art and dogs. They're the saving graces in this latest toon-fest from California's Spike Decker and Mike Gribble. The duo has assembled another hodgepodge of animated shorts, and this time, the most entertaining and thought-provoking involve canines or culture. It's not that the producers have any thematic purpose. On the contrary, this edition has a slapdash feel to it, with content and order dictated by whim or -- my suspicion -- pulled from a hat. It's most apparent in the second half, after Nick Park's “The Wrong Trousers” -- a slam-bang, goofy, gorgeous half-hour saga of Wallace and his dog Grommit battling a sinister penguin -- and you know you've seen the best stuff. Don't get me wrong, the films here are above-par -- no real yawners; most are at least clever and those not especially engaging have the decency not to go on too long -- but they aren't shown to best advantage when seen in the shadow of Park's fabulous farce. Still, the jewels compensate for it: Joan Gratz's Oscar-winning “Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase,” a tour of modern art with Gratz recreating in clay paintings by Picasso, Warhol, Munch, and others, swirling one piece into another, showing us as she melts a naturalistic face into an abstracted one what the Cubists were up to with the human form; Barry J.C. Purves's “Screen Play,” as much meditation on theatre as puppet Noh drama, with simple props, masks, and screens making us see far more than is presented (any theatre lover should see it); Joe Murray's funny tale of a mutt who's a magnet for mishaps, “My Dog Zero;” Richard Goleszowski's two servings of his blissfully weird “Rex the Runt,” a clay canine whose lounge-singer serenades and surreal settings suggest Gumby on acid; and “The Wrong Trousers,” a sort of 3-D Far Side which scores the neat feat of satirizing suspense and generating genuine tension, especially during a dazzling, manic chase aboard a model train. These daffy dogs are your best friends -- for the time you're in the theatre anyway. Matisse and Rex. Zero and Picasso. Magritte and Grommit. It's arf & art. Three barks -- uh, stars.

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