DumbLand (2002)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Animation, Short, Comedy
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 1,745 users  
Reviews: 18 user | 18 critic

A series of 5-minute line animations (drawn in the rough style and with the minimalist plots of David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World comic strip) featuring an angry and violent Neanderthal, and his family and neighbors.

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A series of 5-minute line animations (drawn in the rough style and with the minimalist plots of David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World comic strip) featuring an angry and violent Neanderthal, and his family and neighbors.

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2002 (USA)  »

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(8 episodes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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"Get the stick, get the stick!"; whacked out and usually a riot
11 May 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It is said that David Lynch's films and shorts won't appeal to everyone. Neither will Dumbland, maybe more than ever. I have a feeling that Dumbland, as people come across it, will be a true mark of 'I get it' or 'what the hell'. It's not surrealism exactly, but absurd to the point of no return. It's also very, very, very stupid. But in this stupidity can be a sort of ironic intelligence to it, that the maker knows so well how childish and repugnant this is, and this self-consciousness is a plus, not a detraction.

It's just a bunch of crudely drawn shorts- the kind that might not even make it on Hertzfeldt and Judge's Animation show (which, I might add, Lynch here has a lot in common with both directors in their work- centered on a lummox with an IQ of 20 who has a constantly quivering-with-fear wife, and a child who looks like a cross between the gingerbread man and/or an alien. The episodes include little situations like a faulty treadmill, a salesman who can recite the Gettysburg address, watching over a sick brother in law, ant hallucinations, and just wallowing on the couch with noise all around. All the while, Lynch is still experimenting, as he was constantly for better or worse during the period of five years he made on and off Inland Empire.

For one thing, he's going back to the roots of his very first short, Six Figures Getting Sick Six Times, in the usage of repetition as a means to an end. This sometimes works excruciatingly well, and sometimes not. Sometimes, like with the episode with the sitting around the house doing nothing as teeth are bleeding and a fly buzzes around, the absurdism sort of waxes and wanes without much of a good effect. And even an episode like with the guy's friend coming over is funny more-so for the Beavis & Butt-head comparison (both laugh like idiots, and are equally engrossed by killing things like fish and sheep). What ends up working is how Lynch shows up front delirious abstractions, in the crudest ways imaginable, and excessive violence.

In what comes closest to surrealism in "ants", the guy mistakenly sprays bug-spray (just called "Kill", one of Lynch's very cheap but fun pokes at societal conventions) on himself, and envisions ants in a musical chorus line, solos included. And one of the most harrowingly funny things I've ever seen from the filmmaker is "get the stick", where we just see the guy, cheered on by his son, getting a stick lodged in his mouth. Soon the neck breaks, eyes pop out, and once said stick is removed he doesn't watch out for traffic waddling like a manhole cover. Other moments pop up like this in unexpected crevices, and it's drawn as if on cheap paper with an impetus to shock with foul-mouthed language (mostly from the man, as well as from the 'grandmother', who in one of Lynch's voices for the characters is the deepest of all), and a shaky quality that's reminiscent of the cream of the crop from (early) Hertzfeldt.

All the same I'm still not sure if Dumbland is something I would put into someone's hands if they haven't seen much of Lynch yet let alone anything by him. There are some little points on society made via complete exaggerations that may or may not be in Lynch's mind closer than we usually think to those in real life. However in general there's not a whole lot that should be read into it, which is why I'd say more than half who see it will hate it with a passion. Those who dig the bottom-less pits of animated comedy, be prepared have a blast.

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