2008, PG, 87 min. Directed by Anthony Leondis. Voices by John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, John Cleese, Sean Hayes, Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge, Arsenio Hall.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
Like most acts of cruel mediocrity committed in the name of entertaining children, Igor presumably seemed like a good idea at the time. (Children on their own are rarely if ever mediocre in their cruelty, a subtle but key distinction that has not gone unnoticed by Tim Burton.) Based extremely loosely on the now-generic title character, who, let's get this straight once and for all, was originated on film in 1931 by Dwight Frye, in James Whale's Frankenstein. Frye's leering lab assistant to Colin Clive's monster-maker is actually named Fritz and not Igor, but later Universal franchise films Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein did feature Bela Lugosi as the cackling Ygor. Also notable was Marty Feldman's "Eye-gor" in Young Frankenstein, Arno Juerging's Otto, opposite Udo Kier in Flesh for Frankenstein, and the occasional Tim Conway/Carol Burnett sketch, among many others. Moms and dads, by now scratching their heads over all this background information on the history of Igor and why it matters, should bear in mind two things. First, while this MGM-distributed, PG-rated (for "thematic elements, scary images, action, and mild language") comedy is considerably less likely to incite ADD episodes in the under-12 set than, say, the Igor-free Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, it's also nowhere near as visually, vocally, or narratively inspired – or likely to inspire – as Burton and Henry Selick's similarly themed animated outings. Second, although this Igor (voiced, ingratiatingly, by Cusack) is an ambitious dreamer in the Disneyfied, follow-your-dreams-you-crazy-misfit-you mold, who seeks only to (nobly and rightly) prove his worth as a creator rather than a mere assistant, the origin story, so to speak, is worth noting, if only because your kids likely know the gory details already, and you might want to, also. That said, Buscemi's turn as Igor's suicidal bunny buddy, Scamper, is a canny lesson in futility, the animation has nada on Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, and Cleese, as Igor's "mathter," is criminally underused. Pixar this isn't, but neither is it Mary Shelley's VeggieTales. If only.