When kids wander distractedly about the theater, couples nudge each other as they identify the voice actors (“Ooh, that’s Jay Leno”), and your 12-year-old daughter squirms about, rests her head on your shoulder, and starts cracking her knuckles during an animated movie, you know someone has taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Such is the case with Igor.
What went wrong? Is Pixar the only studio that can get animation right these days? Here’s an anecdote. I attended the recent program Evening at the Opera by the Bismarck Civic Chorus. I was amused by Menotti’s The Telephone and liked the way Puccini laid down a tune. Then Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte wafted effortlessly throughout the Belle and all else was forgotten as I was transported to that place where pure meets bliss.
Watching Igor, I was reminded of Amadeus and how Pixar is to all challengers what Mozart was to his rival Salieri. Wall-E weightlessly took flight and filled our imaginations with a tale both fresh and engaging. It was as if the filmmakers at Pixar found the hidden pool of eternal stories and simply started drawing water out by the bucket.
Igor was made by passionate fans of animated storytelling – the way Salieri was passionate about making music – but the strain and the sweat from their exertion shows in every frame. The result is like Salieri’s operas, a lot of what sounds like music, but isn’t catchy, and quickly escapes the memory like air released from a balloon.
The storytelling in Igor is as jumbled as the visual design is cluttered, so cluttered that it takes too much effort to know what to look at and so jumbled that the story demands too much concentration. One of the great strengths of the best animated movies is a simple (though not simple-minded) approach that makes clear that the slipper is important and getting it on the right foot is what’s at stake.