The Other Side of Animation: Hell & Back Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: This film is full of crude adult humor and sexual themes and some nudity. It also has a lot of shock-value jokes that are more offensive than funny. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Do not watch this unless your children are at least 15 or 18. Enjoy the review!

You know what is a really crummy thing about movie trailers these days? No matter what kind of movie it is, the trailer is either way too misleading in terms of what the movie is actually about, shows too much in terms of the best jokes/action sequences, feels cynically produced to think the common moviegoer is stupid, or essentially shows the entire movie. However, sometimes you get a trailer to a movie that had no other choice than to show off what the main product is going to end up as. Today’s movie review had a trailer that was basically, “what you see is what you get. Sorry.” This week, we take a look at the stop-motion film from ShadowMachine films, Hell & Back. This limited release was directed by Tom Gianas and Ross Shuman. It was released back in October 2nd, 2015 to, like I said, a limited release. It had very little marketing, and the critics and individuals who did see it, attacked the movie with mostly negative reviews. Not really that hard to see why this animated film didn’t do much for the movie-going world. Let’s dive in anyway, and see why it might not be worth going to Hell & Back.

The story is about two young guys named Remy, voiced by Nick Swardson, and Augie, voiced by T.J. Miller, as they work at a pretty horrible carnival. One night, with a friend of theirs, Curt Myers, voiced by Rog Riggle, they have Curt sign a blood oath to a satanic book in front of a very specific ride. After breaking said blood oath literally a few seconds after said oath, Curt is sucked into Hell, and it is up to Remy and Augie to go find him before he is sacrificed by the Devil, voiced by Bob Odenkirk. Along the way, the two young dudes meet up with Deema, a half-demon girl, voiced by Mila Kunis, and the legendary Orpheus, voiced by Danny McBride.

Yeah, since this by the same company that used to distribute the hit show, Robot Chicken, you can guess that there will be a lot of raunchy shock humor. While not as shocking as say, South Park or those really bad comedies that go off of shock comedy with no substance (A majority of Comedy Central’s shows), the humor is not really that great. Comedy might be subjective, but good lord, the writers needed to calm the heck down. It felt too busy, and for every joke that had potential, it got run over by five bad jokes. Oh, and this film has a really big fetish with jokes about male molestation, because you know, making jokes about someone getting assaulted/harassed/worse always works! If you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic! This is why I really can’t stand shows like Drawn Together or the thankfully cancelled Brickleberry. If you have shock humor just to be offensive with no meaning behind said shocking jokes, then don’t be a comedy writer, since you have no idea what you are doing. I wouldn’t mind the raunchy mean-spirited humor if the characters in this movie were worth investing into, but in reality, they really aren’t that great. They are either incredibly unlikable or flat-out boring. I can tell the actors are trying to make the chemistry work, and from time to time, it does, but you have to get through a lot of the tripe the film throws at you to get to them. I also get the idea of “saving your friend from the devil” and all, and the twist is sort of funny, but we have seen it done before with better writers and shows.

The animation is fine, and it is nice to see stop-motion more than just the films from Laika and Aardman Entertainment, but it’s not up-to-par with those two studios. It’s more in line with a higher budgeted episode of Robot Chicken or those stop-motion TV specials that you see from time to time. The movements are just a bit janky, and are not as smooth as the crisp buttery smoothness you see in Laika-made films. I also found the overall look of Hell to be rather unremarkable. The demons look decent, but the overall design of it all is forgettable at best.

With all of this negativity I have for this film, did I personally find something I liked about the movie? Well, I like the voice cast. Even though the script is pretty lousy with jokes and making actual characters, the actors do a decent job in terms of trying to make it all work. The cast includes Nick Swardson, T.J. Miller, Mina Kunis, Danny Mcbride, Bob Odenkirk, Susan Sarandon, Dana Snyder, H. Jon Benjamin, John P. Farley, Michael Pena, Jennifer Coolidge, and Brian Posehn to name a few. I also find Bob Odenkirk entertaining as the devil. Nothing new or anything, but this is a good actor, and he does what he can to put some likability into the Devil himself.

Still, a solid comedic cast can’t save this movie. Besides a few laughs and some performances, I just couldn’t get into it. I know this style of comedy is probably is not for me, but it seems like I’m not alone in calling the script weak and mediocre. There is a reason why there was barely any advertising for this film. It just came and went like most under-marketed/mediocre films. I guess if you like this style of humor, and any of the terrible schlock that tries to be funny, but is just painful to sit through on Comedy Central, and want a raunchy low-brow stop-motion flick, then you might like it. As for me, I would just skip it and get something like Rex the Runt, or any of the other Aardman and Laika films if you want to watch a stop-motion film. Just comes to show that, sometimes, what the marketing gives you is what you get. Well, we are getting close to the 30th review, so how about we talk about a movie that is an interesting bit of animation? Next time, we take a look at Henry & Me. Thanks for reading this article, I hope you liked it, and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

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