The Other Side of Animation #20: Cool World Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: There are major adult and sexual themes. Definitely do not watch this with kids that are younger. Viewer’s discretion is advised. It’s also a really boring movie! Enjoy the review!

Oh boy, we are heading into some infamous territory once more today on The Other Side of Animation. For the 20th review, we are going to look at the well-known and hated animated/live action film by Ralph Bakshi, Cool World. Ralph Bakshi was one of the head honchos during the “experimental time” of animation where Disney took a backseat, and animated films with weird and surreal ideas came out. Bakshi’s films stood out with more old-fashioned-looking cartoon designs, but with more adult themes and settings. Unfortunately, his style of animation and film-making, along with many others, ran dry in the late 80s and early 90s, and nowhere is that more clear than Cool World. This film had a notorious history, as in the beginning, it wasn’t meant to be this darker adult version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Originally, this film was supposed to be this weird live-action/animated slasher film where the psycho was this half-human half-cartoon character. Now, tell me, if you know anything about how weird and trippy Bakshi’s films can be, and now hearing about the original concept, how amazing does this sound? Well, apparently someone at Paramount thought this wasn’t a great idea, and basically screwed the entire project over with secret rewrites, celebrities wanting to stick their ignorant hands into the development pool, rating changes, and a lot of Hollywood shenanigans. The final product that we got was Cool World, a film released in 1992. It got panned by everyone, became a notorious flop at the box office with only making apparently less than half its budget, and is probably a film Brad Pitt wishes he could forget about. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame him.

Oh, joyous day, where do I start with this trainwreck of a movie? How about the story? Or, well, what little there is? Brad Pitt plays WWII veteran Frank Harris, returning from war and back to his mother. Brad then attempts to take his mother on a motorcycle ride down the desert roads with an unfortunately out-of-nowhere tragic crash that ends up with his mother dead. If that quick and somewhat forced tragedy wasn’t enough, right as when Brad’s dead mother is being taken away, he is, quite frankly, out of nowhere, pulled into this weird cartoony world known as Cool World by a scientist named Dr. Vincent Whiskers, voiced by Maurice LaMarche. Forty- seven years pass, and Brad Pitt is now a detective in Cool World, a rather hyper-violent cartoony world. During his time in this topsy-turvy world, he has his doodle girlfriend Lonette, voiced by Candi Milo, his spider police partner Nails, voiced by Charlie Adler, another real-life human known as Jack Deebs, played by Gabriel Byrne, and the infamous vixen, Holli Would, voiced by Kim Basinger. Can Brad Pitt keep the order within Cool World? Or will the zany world and Holli’s wild ways cause mass chaos?

So, I am going to be nice to this movie, and talk about its positive elements. It might not be much, but Cool World is a very, well, cool-looking world. I like the grimy aesthetic, the mixture of real-life sets and cartoons, and the cartoon art direction itself. The designs of the characters are very Fleischer Studios, and I really like that. This was during a time where Disney reigned supreme, and every other studio wanted to look like the Disney films. Cool World at least dodges that bullet by looking different. I also liked Nails. He was a good-hearted spider, who was rather wacky.

Now then, that is all the positive vibes this film is getting from me, because this animated/live action film is horrendous! First off, the mixture of both live-action and animation don’t mix! It doesn’t look good at all! This wouldn’t be a thing if Who Framed Roger Rabbit hadn’t come out and do it correctly four years earlier! It’s off-putting and distracting, since you feel like the live-action actors and the animated individuals don’t jive. What also doesn’t mix well is the story. The story is barely there, and it just loves to meander and distract you with little cartoon characters bouncing around and making huge amounts of noise. It also loves to throw in characters who have no character or identity, and love wasting the time of everyone involved in the story. Even the universe that this film sets up makes no sense, nor is it explained well at all. This is especially true when you keep seeing Gabriel Byrne pop in and out of Cool World. How does it work? Why, it’s never explained! They also treat him like he was the god and creator of the place, but we never find out how this world was made. I can’t believe how much this film has going on, but how little it matters to the viewer. In the end, I checked out, and couldn’t care less about what happened, since the film obviously didn’t care.

I feel like the people behind this movie never realized why Who Framed Roger Rabbit was so amazing. It wasn’t just because Jessica Rabbit was sexy, or that it was nonstop nostalgia. It was because there were likable/lovable characters that we wanted to root for and against. The world was more fleshed out in how everything worked, and wasn’t just loud and obnoxious 24-7. The idiots at Rough Draft Studios and Paramount Pictures thought that all you needed were cartoons being loud, annoying, and sexual. Yeah, I bet all that thought-power translated well into only making a little over $14 million of your $30+ million budget. They showed us that they knew what they were doing.

While I can safely say that this isn’t as horrible as The Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Cool World is still a rancid cynical trainwreck to sit through. Unless you want to own this for a bad movie night, just go out and buy Who Framed Roger Rabbit, if you haven’t already. Cool World stands as a prime example of when Hollywood doesn’t care, and wants to leech off of people who put actual effort into making a good movie. I think we need to take a look at something more calming. I want to be invested in an atmospheric experience. This is why next time, we will be taking a look at the short film, The Garden of Words. Thanks you for reading my article, and see you next time!

Rating: The Worst

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