The observance of Halloween dates back thousands of years to the Celts who used the date as a celebration of the end of harvest season. Since Irish immigrants brought the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century the way we celebrate October 31st has changed from a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter to our tradition of dressing up in outlandish costumes, carving pumpkins and gorging ourselves on Creepy Crawlers Gummy Candy and Twist & Glow Halloween Pops. These days it’s second only to Christmas in terms of the amount of people who decorate their homes for the holidays and North American revelers spend upwards of 5 billion dollars a year on Halloween costumes. Another great treat of the fall season are Halloween specials like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Mr. Boogedy. The latest entry on the Halloween scene is Igor, a new animated film for kids starring the voice of John Cusack.
Igor is a riff on the classic mad scientist movies, this time told from the lab assistant’s point of view. Igor (John Cusack) is a lowly hunchback with a “major in slurred speech and a ‘Yes, Master’ degree” who dreams of becoming a scientist. When his master is killed by his own invention Igor gets his chance to shine and maybe even win the annual Evil Science Fair. His invention, a female Frankenstein monster named Eva, is meant to be the most evil creature the world has ever seen, but turns out to be a sweet natured giant with aspirations of becoming an actress. To this end she says she’s interested in adopting kids from other countries and says she’ll become an environmentalist and only fly private when necessary. If she doesn’t drop her ideas of stardom and turn nasty how will Igor win the Evil Science Fair?
Igor is aimed at little kids. Written by Chris McKenna, who previously penned American Dad and voiced by an all star cast featuring Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Jay Leno and Christian Slater, it is a great looking cartoon that’s equal parts German Expressionism and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The highly stylized characters look like they just walked off the set of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the inventive backgrounds are bound to set off kid’s imaginations. The camera work, often so static in animated films like this, is fluid and cinematic.
The story is stretched a bit thin even at the compact running time of 85 minutes, but there is enough going on to keep the under ten crowd entertained. Most of the irreverent humor is meant for the little ones, for example:
“I’m all thumbs,” says Eva the giantess. “Yeah, sorry about that,” replies Igor, “I got the thumbs on sale.”
Parents probably won’t find any big yuks in lines like that or the slapstick or even the bathroom jokes, but there are gags to keep older viewers interested peppered throughout.
Igor is a cute Halloween story with stylish animation; jokes that should make ten-year-olds laugh and good messages about the importance of friends and determination and at 85 minutes shouldn’t tax growing attention spans.