Who’s In It: The voices of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Jennifer Coolidge, Arsenio Hall, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, Molly Shannon
The Basics: Igor (Cusack) is a mad scientist’s assistant with dreams of being a mad scientist himself. So he builds his own knock-off Bride of Frankenstein who, it turns out, can’t be bothered to do her creator’s bidding and run off to murder an entire orphanage full of blind children. (No joke, that’s the joke. Cue parents freaking out in the theater.) Instead she aspires to goodness and has a dream of her own: to be a beloved actress. So yeah, all the better to populate the script with child-baffling jokes about headshots and sense-memory journals and yoga class. And Eddie Izzard’s got a lot of good bitchy lines. Children love Eddie Izzard and bitchiness.
What’s the Deal: In the first few minutes of this movie there exists a character who is a near exact replica of the Mayor of Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The filmmakers probably think of it as an homage. Bad move. All that did was remind me of how inherently sweet and subversive and child-friendly that earlier movie was. They had axes embedded in their foreheads but they loved bunnies. They tied up Christmas presents in black paper but they had love in their scary hearts. To quote a lyric from Nightmare’s first song: “That’s our job but we’re not mean.” Yeah, I know The Nightmare Before Christmas and you, Igor, are no Nightmare Before Christmas.
More Ways In Which Nightmare Kicks This Thing In The Butt: The tone of this movie is so frantically unsure of itself that it doesn’t know whether it’s for kids or grownups, leaving everyone bored. Meanwhile, it looks like crap. Digital filmmaking’s greatest goal is making you believe you’re in the sort of 3D world formerly accomplished by stop-motion animation like Nightmare’s extravagantly beautiful universe. But this is budget computer animation of the sort usually reserved for straight-to-DVD sequels to superior movies. Oh guess what? The director of this is responsible for writing The Emperor’s New Groove 2: Kronk’s New Groove and directing Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. So now you know.
Who Gets Out Alive: Igor’s sidekicks, a cranky assistant voiced by Steve Buscemi and a defective, dopey, brain-in-a-jar voiced by Sean Hayes, are actually funny and sweet. So just like in most Hollywood comedies, the supporting characters wind up being the ones you’re rooting for and wishing they’d get more screen time.
What to Watch With Your Kids Instead: Mad Monster Party, Destroy All Monsters, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Monster Squad, Francis in The Haunted House.