Last weekend we went to see the new film called Igor. It wasn’t my first choice – I had a secret yearning for High School Musical 3 but my daughter had already seen it. So I went to the cinema with that horrible doubt you get when you’re paying to see a film you’re not really interested in. Igor is the latest of that ever growing list of animated features with famous, busy, okay I’ll do another animated film, actors providing the voices. This in itself is irritating for me; I always hang around at the end as the audience stampede around me for the exit, waiting for the credits to roll so I can check which actor voiced which character.
And I feel bad about being such a critic because, well, doesn’t he look cute?
But the problem I have with many of these films is that it’s often difficult to judge just who they’re aimed at. The humour in Igor went over the little heads of most of the audience we were part of (their spokesman became a small boy in front of us who kept standing up and asking “what’s he saying Daddy? What’s he saying?”). Igor is an animated take on the horror genre, working in many elements from Frankenstein. Our hero Igor is the hunchbacked assistant of a mad Frankenstein who decides to embark on some monster creating of his own. Some of the humour isn’t bad – Igor being sent to Igor school as a child and graduating with a yes masters degree. Well, I smiled at this one but nobody else found it amusing. Then there’s a joke about the not-very-evil professor who creates an evil lasagne. I nodded at this one, which was a kind of Eddie Izzard type joke (and Izzard coincidentally provides one of the voices). On the whole the humour is sub-Woody Allenish. Okay on its own but somehow out of place here. Conversations that follow this type of film are usually along the lines of “who was your favourite character?” and “what was your favourite bit?” Not “didn’t you find the humour just a little too self-depreciating?” or “do you think John Cusack’s future lies in comedy?”
Igor shouldn’t be singled out – there are dozens of examples – and I do think that the smart talking animated genre (especially when they’re animated animals – Madagascar 2 is on its way) is screaming out to be laid to rest. In Ratatouille, one of the main plot threads is about a nasty food critic (voiced by Peter O’Toole) who can close a restaurant forever with just one bad review. The other characters in the film are terrified by him, but I found this too much of a knowing joke for children and explaining why the O’Toole character was so feared simply spoilt the gag. And I suppose you can blame Woody Allen a little for voicing Antz, which has lead to countless comedians trying their hand at this sort of thing; Izzard, Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and the rest. it can’t be a bad job, unless of course you’re a proper actor like Ian McKellen who didn’t enjoy making Flushed Away that much because it simply tore him away from the contact of other actors. Like hobbits, for example.
I shall dutifully see Madagascar 2 when it comes out, and we already have Kung Fu Panda on DVD. I’ll get to see High School Musical 3 soon I hope. And so we stampeded out at the end of Igor, or at least I did after checking the credits to see if it really was John Cleese providing the voice of a minor character. I think it was, although there were too many little heads bobbing in front of me to know for sure.