It pales next to the truly bizarre genius of TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, but there's still plenty to enjoy about this computer-animated horror comedy from director Anthony Leondis. However, much of it will probably go right over the heads of kids who aren't familiar with classic movies or the naughtiness of Eddie Izzard.
Once upon a time, the kingdom of Malaria was a sunny sovereignty filled with prosperous farmers until a thick covering of mysterious storm clouds gathered high above, blocking the sun, killing all the crops and plunging the good citizens into impoverished, gloomy misery. In order to survive, King Malbert (voice of Jay Leno) devised a wicked plan for his eldritch realm: He's invited evil scientists from far and wide to come to Malaria and create things so monstrously threatening the King could extort billions of dollars from the rest of the world. So now once green and pleasant Malaria is a swampy miasma filled with the likes Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese) and Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard), evil geniuses who are assisted by their "Igors." These poor souls are hunchbacked assistants who have no other option in life than to attend Igor School where they learn how to properly hiss "Yesss, Masssster!" like Peter Lorre each an every time their bosses yell, "Igor, pull the switch!" Dr. Glickenstein's Igor (John Cusack), however, wants more out of life than to slave away in his master's shadow. Unbeknownst to Dr. Glickenstein, Igor has already invented two little creatures of his own -- Scamper (Steve Buscemi), a suicidal but frustratingly immortal rabbit, and Brain (Sean Hayes), a mobile, none-too-bright brain in a jar -- and he's desperate to try his hand at something a little bigger. Igors, however, are forbidden to do anything but their masters' bidding. Igor gets his chance when Dr. Glickenstein -- hardly the most infallible mad scientist in Malaria -- is accidentally killed by his latest creation, and rather than tell King Malbert, Igor decides to step into the breach with an idea he's been tinkering with: creating life out mismatched, stitched together body parts a la Victor Frankenstein. Igor's activities soon arouse the curiosity of Dr. Schadenfreude, a devious inventor who rolls like Elton John circa 1974. With the help of his bad (and not because she's drawn that way) girlfriend, Jacklyn (Martha Coolidge), Dr. Schadenfreude has cheated his way to winning the past 17 Evil Genius Science Fairs, and this year he plans on claiming the biggest prize of all: the crown of Malaria. Igor, meanwhile, has achieved success: He creates a monster, but unfortunately, she's anything but wicked.
There are so many references to movies like James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE FLY, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE -- not to mention TV shows like Inside the Actor's Studio -- that this is really more of a movie lover's movie than a kid's flick, and Izzard's dialogue is slightly more adult than one might expect. But by all means bring the family: It's fast and colorful enough for youngsters, though tots may find some the horror elements, well, horrifying.
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