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Cartoons: No Laughing Matter? (Unrated)

Release Date: May 10th, 2006 (Film Forum).
Directed by Chris Shepherd, David Shrigley, Lisa Crafts, Suzie Templeton, JJ Villard Andy London, Carolyn London, Debra Solomon, George Griffin, Suzan Pitt.

BASIC PREMISE: A compilation of 8 animated short films exploring the darker side of life.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This variety of short films has only a few memorable selections, but each one is undeniably unique and bizarre. Who I Am and What I Want, directed by Chris Shepard and David Shrigley, blends a mixture of dark, twisted humor with plenty of liveliness. Its protagonist named Pete learns about himself (and what he wants) while living a forest after a life full of excesses—especially alcohol. He’s no Henry David Thoreau, but at least he has some wit. The Flooded Playground is a very bizarre work directed by Lisa Crafts. Basically, a baby looks for his blanket and ends up in a forest where he encounters strange, dark creatures. Without dialogue, it’s difficult to get into the film at first. But, eventually, the symbolic imagery becomes clear and, therefore, the visuals—a mixture of different animation styles including stop motions—become more interesting. Dog,directed by Suzie Templeton, could have easily been longer than its brief 5.5 minutes, especially given its subject matter regarding a young boy dealing with the recent death of his mother while his father joins him in his grievance. Meanwhile, the titular dog observes what goes on. Out of all of the shorts, this one is the most melancholy. Son of Satan, directed by JJ Villard, has a very intricate, fascinating plot despite its brief running time of 10 minutes. A bully and his group of friends beat up a kid and, later, the bully nearly gets beat up by his father. This bully isn’t as mean as he seems—he has a weak, remorseful point, but it doesn’t come out so easily. The wild, chaotic visual style reflects just how confused and somewhat perverse the bullies seem. The Back Brace, directed by Carolyn and Andy London, explores the life of a young boy who gets ridiculed for wearing a back brace for his Scoliosis treatment. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but at least it’s imaginative. Everybody’s Pregnant is an animated musical directed by Debra Solomon with the most energy within the entire animated series. It Pains Me to Say This, directed by George Griffin, comes across as a chaotic mixture of violence without much focus. However, it does have at least a few bits of humor. Finally, there’s El Doctor, a gruesome, disgusting film directed by Suzan Pitt. A sequence involving an alternative use for human intestines feels vomit-inducing and too shocking—although the beautiful animation combined with the well-chosen music feels quite engaging.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: None is required or desired.



IN A NUTSHELL: A strange, yet somewhat fascinating collection of dark humor mixed with creative animation.


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