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Harley Jane Kozak,
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Jack Deebs is a cartoonist who is due to be released from jail. His comic book "Cool World" describes a zany world populated by "doodles" (cartoon characters) and "noids" (humanoids). What Jack did't realize is that Cool World really does exist, and a "doodle" scientist has just perfected a machine which links Cool World with our world. Intrigued at seeing his creating come to life, Jack is nonetheless wary as he knows that not everything in Cool World is exactly friendly. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the press release for the film, the studio tried to sell the movie both as a down-and-dirty "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and as a technical achievement in creating a multiplane effect using live-action and animation. The claims were somewhat foolhardy as "Roger"'s adult situations better served its plot and Roger had scores of technical breakthroughs in its attempt to seamlessly combine live-action and animation. See more »
When Jack and Holli are about to have sex, Jack can be heard moaning. But in an up-close shot where Holli gets on top of him, his mouth doesn't move at all. See more »
Animated films and cartoons have always been looked upon as an art form that caters primarily to a younger audience. Though this may be an unfair assessment to make, it is a logical one, since the child-friendly Walt Disney Company has dominated the animated film industry right from its inception after introducing the world to Mickey Mouse in 1928. After that, there has only been a handful of daring artists who have tried to disengage the squeaky-clean stereotype that animated films had since been branded with. Ralph Bakshi was such a man.
In 1972, Bakshi wrote and directed FRITZ THE CAT, a full-length animated feature film that touted a self-imposed X-rating and worldwide critical acclaim. Exactly twenty years later, Bakshi would go on to direct COOL WORLD, his sixth and most recent adult-oriented animated film to date.
On its own, the artwork and animation in COOL WORLD is excellent. The girls are sexy, the villains are ugly, and the backdrops have a surreal, almost psychedelic quality to them. The use of rotoscoping (still a relatively new technology at the time) to fluidly illustrate some of the more complex human movements was a wise choice, making the animated `Doodles' seem all the more lifelike. The animators went to great lengths to make their characters' interactions with live actors and actual scenery seem genuine. Many subtle touches, like the cartoons casting real shadows in the Humanoid world, and the direct eye contact between the Noids and the Doodles, were added to enhance the believability of these otherwise unbelievable situations.
Still, despite the great animation and the artists' valiant efforts at making the two-dimensional animation intermingle with our three-dimensional universe, the movie's visuals, while very impressive, are ultimately ineffectual. No matter how well these images are drawn, their lack of depth makes the contact with the live actors seem awkward and even distracting at times. Granted, they did the best they could at combining two very different mediums, but no amount of detail can shake the feeling that you're merely watching a 2-D overlay atop of a 3-D film, rather than 2-D characters within a 3-D film as was intended.
The high point of the film, I think, was Kim Basinger's portrayal of Holli Would as she fervently attempts to adjust to Humanoid life. Basinger is suitably perky as the deviant Miss Would, and did an outstanding job emulating the actions and mannerisms of her cartoon counterpart. Basinger succeeds at making Holli's reactions to the Las Vegas public both hilarious and embarrassing for the viewer, a feat which is probably not easy to pull off.
Gabriel Byrne's performance as Jack Deebs is another example of fine acting in this film. Byrne's character, although probably not as scared or confused by his predicament as he should have been, is portrayed convincingly, and there's enough of a well-developed backstory to accept his antisocial attitude and somewhat pessimistic outlook on life. Byrne also handles Deebs's gradual transition from calm and collected to a state of panic and exasperation exceptionally well, and his sheepishness as he futilely attempts to disassociate himself with Holli and her embarrassingly eccentric behavior is another high point in the film.
Brad Pitt plays his role as Detective Frank Harris in typical Pitt fashion. This is not to say he did a bad job, but his performances tend to be bland and unmemorable, and this movie is no exception. Even as early as 1992, the year COOL WORLD was released, we've already seen Pitt play the same no-nonsense `tough guy' character in a half-dozen or so other films, and he doesn't exactly add any kind of flair to make this role distinguishable from his others.
COOL WORLD's plot, although thin, is exciting and very original. The pacing is lightning fast, constantly jarring the viewer with over-the-top cartoon sight gags and playful innuendos. There are chase scenes, fight scenes, sex scenes, and death scenes; all seemingly back to back, and all set to an awesome adrenalin-pumping techno soundtrack. From the opening title to the closing credits, COOL WORLD plays out like a cinematic roller coaster.
However, as exciting as the movie was, I couldn't help feeling gypped after finally seeing it. COOL WORLD, although undoubtedly a clever picture, lacks the social themes and political commentary (as well as the bold, overt explicitness) that Ralph Bakshi is famous for. In FRITZ THE CAT, Bakshi takes jabs at a wide variety of hot-button issues and events that were controversial at the time, such as the Black Panthers, the alarming rise of police brutality, and the hippie movement. Cool World, at least from my own personal interpretation, is devoid of any kind of theme or commentary whatsoever.
Overall, COOL WORLD doesn't really do anything that hasn't been done before. We've already seen adult-oriented animation in FRITZ THE CAT. We've already seen the `cartoon/reality crossover' in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. And we've already witnessed rotoscoped animation in Bakshi's own THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But just because it isn't groundbreaking does not mean it isn't entertaining. When it comes to action, excitement, and eye candy, COOL WORLD definitely delivers the goods.
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