IGOR ** Animated feature starring the voices of John Cusack, Eddie Izzard and others; rated PG (violence, mild profanity)
Once there was a land where the primary profession was "mad scientist" or "evil genius." And the chief export was blackmail threats of the terror their mad, evil genius scientists would unleash.
Yeah, my first thoughts were "North Korea" and "Pakistan," too.
But no, this is Malaria, a darkened, lightning-crossed landscape that Frankenstein and his monster would be happy to call home.
Malaria is where every lad can dream of opening his own lab, having his own comely milk-maid girlfriend or diabolical mad scientist moll. Unless he has a hunch on his back and is named "Igor." Then, he's got a one-way ticket to "All right, Igor, THROW THE SWITCH!"
That's the clever set-up of "Igor," a decently animated misfire from MGM and the French Sparx animation studio. Visually, it's a knock-off of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and a credible one at that. But the joke-and-heart-starved script lets down a solid voice cast headed by John Cusack, Eddie Izzard, Steve Buscemi, Jay Leno and Molly Shannon.
Cusack plays an Igor with a dream, to be his own evil genius someday. But that "Yes, Master" degree ties him to the clumsy Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese, terrific). Igor's ideas are dismissed, even after the good doctor blows himself to smithereens. Still, if Igor can get his pet project into the annual Evil Science Fair and win, it'll be a blow for Igors everywhere.
Of course, Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard, perfect), who always wins by stealing others' inventions, won't hear of that. He tries to wrest control of Igor's ultimate creation, a living, breathing stitched-together monster woman (Molly Shannon).
Igor tries to "evil her up," a little bit. But the creature is exposed to TV episodes of "Inside the Actor's Studio," and thus has had all the evil James Liptonized right out of her. She's a different breed of megalomaniac. She thinks she's an actress. She wants to star in "Annie," "become an environmentalist," take voice lessons. As I said, "clever."
Igor's earlier inventions include an unkillable suicidal rabbit (Steve Buscemi) and a brain in a bottle, an allegedly brainy brain (Sean Hayes) who has scribbled "Brian" on his bottle.
"Stupid permanent marker!"
Call "Igor" a nice try by another animation interloper, more on the order of "Space Chimps" than "Fly Me to the Moon." There's enough good stuff here that a better 'toon could have been stitched together from the many promising funny parts.
But "Igor" is chatty and dull, a bit too reliant on innuendo for a kids' film. And the voice actors (Jay Leno rules Malaria) are funnier than their material. Were this a Dreamworks or Pixar computer-animated production, the computers wouldn't have rolled until the Igor at the keyboard had thrown the switch on a sharper, tighter, sillier script.
"Igor" is rated PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language. Running time: 80 minutes.