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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Igor



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#1 of 4 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 14 2009 - 01:26 PM

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MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURESVideo1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:11080p high definitionAudioDTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1StereoSubtitlesSpanishNone

The Feature: 2.5/5
Years ago the country of Malaria was beset by neverending storm clouds, plunging its citizens into darkness and destroying their agrarian way of life. In desperation King Malbert (voiced by Jay Leno) made evil their industry, charging the kingdom's mad scientists with creating weapons and monsters and then demanding the world pay to keep them locked up. So evil scientists are the stars of Malaria now, while their servants, the "Igors," nothing but refuse, fit only for taking orders. But one Igor (voiced by John Cusack) has a penchant for invention, though his master Dr. Glickenstein (voiced by John Cleese) would never encourage such a thing. Fortunately, Glickenstein is not good at what he does and blows himself up, opening the door for Igor to fufill his dream of entering and winning the Evil Science Fair, the contest that determines the next invention Malaria will use to threaten the world.

For the big event Igor pulls out his most secret plan - artificial life! And while he's successful at animating the hideous conglomeration of body parts and chemicals, he's not so succesful at making it evil. Taking on the name of Eva (voiced by Molly Shannon), all she wants to do at first is play with blind orphans and pick flowers, though she eventually figures out she really wants to be an actor. With the help of his other inventions Scamper (a suicidal, immortal bunny voiced by Steve Buscemi) and Brain (a not-so-smart brain in a jar voiced by Sean Hayes), Igor manages to convince her the science fair is a big stage audition. They might actually win the contest despite the deception, but reigning champion Dr. Schadenfreude (voiced by Eddie Izzard), who has stolen every invention he's ever won for, has his sights on Eva too, and sees her not only as the means to win again but to overthrow King Malbert and rule Malaria himself.

In all the years of Frankenstein stories, no one has ever given much thought to the lowly, hunchbacked servant that comes part and parcel. Where did the guy come from? What are his hopes and dreams? Does he have any hobbies? So the premise of "Igor" is a promising one, not unlike the other-end-of-the telescope treatment of the "Wizard of Oz" known as "Wicked." But instead of taking a setting and situation that has been firmly pre-established and providing an alternative perspective on it, it takes the familar character archetypes and throws them into something completely new and different. As a result more time is spent in exposition than necessary, providing the back story on Malaria, the Evil Science Fair, and the machinations of the reigning scientist and King Malbert. It forces the audience to digest and process information when they should be getting to know (and love) the characters. And though I found Igor's sidekicks to be darkly humorous in both their concept and execution, I never quite warmed to Igor himself and especially not to his creation, with whom he eventually falls in love. Eva is just too creepy for my taste, with her doll's head and disproportionate arms, the character design fails to strike the balance between horror and whimsy that we've seen done so well in films like "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Corpse Bride." King Malbert in particular will have Tim Burton fans crying "knock off" - he's a dead ringer for the Mayor of Halloween Town. Animation fans will also find the movie retreads themes from "The Iron Giant," which isn't to say it's entirely devoid of originality or cleverness. I appreciated the dark and sometimes horrific visuals, but I don't see young audiences either getting the jokes or, if they do, enjoying them. Again, it's a balance that's lacking, a fine line that the film's creators failed to walk effectively.


Video Quality: 4.5/5
The picture is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. As we've come to expect from these digitally animated pieces, the picture is clean and devoid of blemishes. There are also no signs of digital artifacts, though the high definition treatment can occasionally show the seams of the production's limited budget - surface textures on things like fabric, stone and metal don't hold up so well in closeups, but look razor sharp and detailed in wide and medium shots. Black levels are deep and stable, though contrast can look a bit on the "hot" side in the outdoor and brighter environments. However there's a consistent depth and richness to colors, whether in the monochromatic chambers of Igor's castle or in Dr. Schadenfreude's colorfully dazzling lab.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The DTS HD Master Audio mix is front-heavy, showing somewhat limited activity in the surrounds and with LFE. There are some nice wraparound effects, but their occurrence can be a little jarring when there isn't much general ambience to sort of pave the way, instead offering mostly support for the soundtrack. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible, however.


Special Features: 2/5

Audio Commentary by Director Tony Leondis, Writer Chris McKenna, and Producer Max Howard: The enthusiastic trio, lead by Leondis, cover topics like the multiple rewrites of the introduction, the film's color theory (e.g. using orange to represent hope) and the inspiration for the various characters. Though the film didn't quite work for me, it was interesting to hear the reasons behind their various decisions and circumstances affecting them.

Alternate Opening Scene (3m18s): One of the earlier treatments of the exposition-heavy introduction uses a vintage newsreel motif. In high definition with stereo audio.

Concept Art Galleries (9m01s): Four galleries of 121 stills covering characters, sets and production design, storyboards, and posters.


Recap

The Feature: 2.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

An animated film that fails to strike the right balance between horror and whimsy gets a very good video transfer, decent audio treatment and a slim set of special features.
One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 4 Chris S

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Posted February 15 2009 - 10:31 AM

Thanks for the review! I had hopes for this film but ultimately they were unfulfilled. It always worries me when studios other than Disney and Dreamworks release animated titles that don't quite work. Hopefully this doesn't discourage MGM from taking on other animated works.
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#3 of 4 SilverWook

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Posted February 15 2009 - 05:53 PM

I saw this on the big screen almost by accident, but I enjoyed it. The suicidal rabbit cracked me up! (You'd likely never see a character like that from the other studios.) A pity MGM did practically nothing to promote the movie.

It would make a great double-feature with Mad Monster Party. Which I hope shows up on Blu-Ray someday. Posted Image

#4 of 4 Sam Posten

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Posted February 16 2009 - 09:20 AM

Definitely intend to check this out, the trailer had me in stitches a year ago or so...

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