I have 469 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Cool World (1992)
What’s it rated? PG-13 for Brad Pitt’s hair, a cartoon baby with blades in its hands and enough sexual innuendo to choke a continent of dicks.
Did people make it? Written by Ralph Bakshi (originally). Re-written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor. Directed by Ralph Bakshi. Acted by Gabriel Byrne, Brad Pitt, Kim Basinger, Michele Abrams, Maurice LaMarche, Charlie Adler, Candi Milo and Joey Camen.
What’s it like in one sentence? Like dropping Acid that’s cut with strychnine.
Why did you watch it? Chewer MiracleWhip asked really nicely and I obliged. I also remember thinking this movie was the cat’s pajamas when I was 12.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Frank Harris, (Pitt) a veteran of WW2, returns home to Las Vegas in 1945. His first day back while he’s out joyriding on his new motorcycle with his mother, a drunk driver hits them, killing his mother instantly. As the ambulance takes her away, he’s yanked into Cool World, a super annoying animated phantasmagoria filled with wacky sidekicks and top heavy dames. Pitt becomes head cop of Cool World since Doc Whiskers (the mad scientist who was building a spike so he could enter our world… fucked if I know) asks him to while he’s gone. 47 years later we meet Jack Deebs, an artist who’s been writing and drawing comics set in Cool World (he sometimes flashes over there while he sleeps) from prison, where he’s serving time for murdering a guy that was sleeping with his wife. Jack’s favorite drawing is of Holli Would (Basinger), a blonde, sexpot, femme fatale who has helped him through the rough and lonely nights in prison. When Jack gets out of prison and finds himself awake and flashing over to Cool World, meeting all the characters he thought he invented, he’ll have to decide between finally getting physical with Holli or saving our world from complete destruction. Can Brad Pitt stop Gabriel Byrne from banging Kim Basinger? Can Gabriel Byrne stop himself from having sex with a fucking cartoon? Can Kim Basinger talk without making me want to kill myself? Most of these answers are no.
Play or remove from my queue? I’d say for historical or nostalgic purposes you should watch it, but if you’ve got no dog in the race, then I’d avoid it. Cool World is cripplingly flawed in so many different ways that it’s almost a cautionary tale for those interested in getting into the movie business. Ralph Bakshi is responsible for 3 of my favorite animated films of all time, Wizards, American Pop and Coonskin (called Street Fight when I saw it). Those films changed how I viewed “cartoons” for the rest of my life (especially Wizards, which owns a big plot of land in my imagination to this day. Something intangible about the character of Peace never leaves me). After he made the also awesome Fire and Ice in 1983, he retired from making films until 1992, when he realized daddy needed a new pair of shoes and it was time to dust off the old pencil drawing thingy. He pitched the idea of Cool World to Paramount, only his concept then was a horror film about “a cartoon and a human having sex and conceiving a hybrid child who visits the real world to murder the father who abandons him.” The studio greenlit it and Bakshi wrote the script, but before principal photography began, producer Frank Mancuso Jr. had the script secretly rewritten by Michael Grais and Mark Victor to follow the story Mancuso was more interested in producing, a story about “what happens when someone creates a world, becomes defined by it, and then can’t escape […] a film about being trapped by your own creation.” Bakshi threatened to walk, Paramount threatened to sue (because all the greatest films are made under duress) and movie magic was shit out like brown water in a bathtub. They wouldn’t even let Bakshi cast Drew Barrymore instead of Kim Basinger, which is just poor thinking all around.
The finished film feels like a product of those behind the scenes shenanigans. The three lead characters of the film are so thinly drawn (heh) and conceived that the film really never stood a chance. The tragic sense of loss Brad Pitt plays on his face the entire film is fascinating to watch, but it’s undercut by every piece of dialogue in the film. He loses his mother in a horrible accident only to get transported to this magical, animated world, and I get that it feels safer to him than the sad and lonely real world, but I never got the sense that he enjoys being in Cool World, either, even though he says he does. He motivations seem born out of script necessity more than character motivation. Gabriel Byrne’s character is incredibly problematic because he’s basically the primary protagonist, is fresh out of jail for murdering a guy his wife was sleeping with, but we never get a sense of the inner life of the man. Once he’s out of prison, that’s the last mention of it for the rest of the movie. It doesn’t seem to inform his character at all. When Holli comes into the real world and starts flirting with the ‘Noids (humanoids), I fully expected to see the jealous beast come out of him, but he just acts like any guy would in that situation. There was no reason to keep him as a con in the script other than to try and keep a bit of the adult flavor in a one time horror movie that was becoming a kids movie (both of which it fails at being). Kim Basinger fares the worst as Holli Would, the femme fatale of the picture, who just wants to become a real girl. The problem here is that, as a cartoon, all Holli does is dance around and flirt with people. She’s really dumb and incredibly annoying and when she becomes Kim Basinger (after having sex with Gabriel Byrne), it only gets worse with her half assed Marilyn Monroe impression and vacant, dead eyes. She becomes the primary antagonist of the film almost by default, since her attempts at becoming a real girl will somehow make Cool World bleed into our world and everything will turn to shit covered lolly pops. Lame motivation, horribly acted and dreadfully written, Holli is one of the worst screen creations in history. She might have helped me become a heterosexual, but she’s sure as hell no Jessica Rabbit.
There’s no story here, the ending is one of the worst I’ve ever seen and some of the acting is like watching buffalo fuck, but Bakshi is a visionary artist and his dream of making a movie that looked like “a living, walk-through painting” does come to life a few times throughout the film. The live action and animated segments don’t blend together half as well as they did in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the actors don’t sell the universe they’re living in or the fact that they’re interacting with things that aren’t there well enough to ever create the suspension of disbelief necessary to buy into Cool World. If it was any other artist working on this film, I never would have made it through it’s endless 102 minute running time but, even at it’s worst, you still get to see Bakshi’s psychedelic imagery married to some excellent rotoscoping techniques for a film that is unlike anything done before or since (except in other Bakshi work). It also has an amazing soundtrack filled with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult but. in turn, that makes the movie feel like a music video most of the time. There’s many interesting parts, but none add up to a remotely satisfying whole. When I was a kid I remember loving the art direction and style of the film, but seeing it again today made me realize how I never paid attention to anything below the surface back then. If it looked cool, I loved it.
Cool World single-handedly killed the live-action\animated genre of film (as far as I know), but I think it’s something that could definitely work again if the proper filmmakers are approached with a script interesting enough to try it. I think Bakshi was the right filmmaker to have made Cool World and I wonder what his version of the film would have been, because I don’t believe it could have been any worse than what we ended up with. If you hold a director like Bakshi hostage to make your film, it’s going to be a half-dead mutant hybrid of a bastard no matter what you do. Artists like Bakshi can’t have their visions compromised or else all of the fire and drive behind the project will sputter out, and that’s all this movie really boils down to: a heavily compromised misfire that shoots for greatness and reaches screechy, annoying new lows.
Do you have a favorite line? “Man is in the bedroom.” Kind of the only line I remember.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? If you’re a fan of Ralph Bakshi, check out the work of Vaughn Bodē, who I’m pretty sure was Bakshi’s biggest inspiration. He created the Cheech Wizard which looks quite a bit like Avatar from Wizards. Their work compliments each other so well that it almost feels like a shared universe they created. We lost Bode in 1975 to auto-erotic asphyxiation, which is becoming a pretty good club to belong to.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Cartoon Noir (looks fucking awesome), Fritz the Cat (hated this when I saw it at the tender age of 9. The television was my mom and the video store my dad)), The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (never bothered), Johnny Suede (never bothered) and Cool as Ice (because they share the word “cool”? Go to hell, Netflix).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? If you like this then it must be because of Ralph Bakshi’s art, which means you must see his Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice, Wizards and American Pop, forthwith. If you like this for other reasons, then I recommend Zanex.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.2
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? Watch Wizards or American Pop instead. Bakshi would want it that way.
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched X-Men: First Class finally and thought it was fun and flawed. I want to see more with that cast and director…minus January Jones, of course.
Next Week? Ghoulies? BKO: Bangkok Knockout? Case 39? The Perfect Host? It’s all up to you.