Genial, enjoyable, but not very deep documentary portrait of gonzo, wildly creative (and twice Academy award nominated) independent animator Bill Plympton.
Director Anastasio takes a jokey tone, as if trying to find the documentary equivalent of Plympton's unique, absurdist style. Right up top, Terry Gilliam pronounces very seriously he's only doing an interview about Plympton to get paid, and Ed Begley Jr. deadpans that he thought he was there to do an interview about Bill Clinton, not Bill Plympton, and gets up to leave. That sort of sets the tone as the film becomes various short pieces about Plympton's history, philosophy, art and humor.
We only see short bits and pieces of Plympton's work, which can be frustrating, and might make the uninitiated wonder what the fuss is about. To me, Plympton's cartoons are often about nothing as much as the build. The slow repeating of variations on a joke until the very repetition is part of what make it so funny. That's hard to capture in an 85 minute documentary.
Plympton himself comes off as an extremely likable, eccentric character, who seems to have inspired a lot of friendship and good-humored admiration from the many worked with him or befriended him. And there a lot of fun moments here, along with some interesting stories about his life and work. I just wish it felt a little bit less like a celebrity tribute show/comedy roast, and more an exploration of an artist's work.
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