Igor has all the makings of a biting, sarcastic masterpiece. Its animated sets are dreary and bleak. Its dialogue is jaded and clever. Unfortunately, it realizes a few foolish, gangster-wannabe adolescents might get the wrong idea and deteriorates from original Willy Wonka-like magic to second rate Sleeping Beauty imitation. Don’t fault John Cusack. Don’t fault Steve Buscemi. Fault a broken studio system which encourages compromise and easily-digested happy endings.
Igor (John Cusack) is a talented mad scientist in training with one problem. He was born with a hunchback, and in the country of Malaria, being born with a hunchback means changing your name to Igor and working for a mad scientist. The mad scientist in question is named Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese), and he’s not very good at his job. His latest creation, evil lasagna, actually tastes pretty good and causes no harm to its victims. Luckily for Igor, Dr. Glickenstein joins Edward Scissorhands creator Vincent Prince in the afterlife, and the deceptively keen hunchback decides to continue his fallen boss’s quest to win the annual Evil Science Fair.
With the help of a suicidal, yet immortal rabbit (Steve Buscemi) and a robotic human brain (Sean Hayes) with spelling problems, Igor creates life in the form of an eager to please and overly nice Frankenstein-like woman named Eva (Molly Shannon), so named because she rejects her maker’s urgings to do wrong. Hoping for a little less Gandhi and a little more Ho Chi Minh, the trio take Eva to a brainwash emporium, but the plan runs afoul thanks to a remote control mishap and their creation ends up an aspiring actress.
Sounds like a wonderful little movie, right? Erroneous. The entire film soon implodes amidst a plethora of unnecessary bloviations and speeches about morality and aww shucks sensibilities. The best thing about Igor is its unconventional protagonist vs. antagonist relationship. Everyone living in the fictional country of Malaria aspires to be an evil genius. Each year, the king picks one diabolical man-made device and uses it to blackmail the entire world. Now, that’s an interesting and worthwhile plot. Tarnishing it with forty minutes of maybe-we-shouldn’t-pull-the-switch nonsense is, frankly, idiotic. We’ve all seen films about fighting off the conscience for a payday. Why can’t we just have a goddamn feature where borderline, wannabe hipster sociopaths try to create the ultimate weapon to blackmail humanity? Apparently, that violates the Hays Production Code.
Thankfully, the entire movie doesn’t play like a lecture you’re forced to listen to during second grade Sunday School classes. True to form, John Cusack and Steve Buscemi basically play themselves, if they were animated. Sure, Cusack is a hunchback and Buscemi a rabbit, but their personalities shine through. Don’t believe me? Igor is a bumbling, yet loveable, outcast with dreams of carving his own path in a bizarre field, while the rabbit is a morose and witty misanthrope who’s just a little too intelligent to find superficial happiness in a world populated by Philistines. Trademark Cusack and Buscemi.
The soundtrack is also amusingly eclectic. From Big Band throwbacks to jovial pop music, the score surprises and pleases at every turn, which would have been a wonderful compliment to Igor’s dark, satirical tone, had filmmaker Anthony Leonidis had the balls to follow through on his original vision.
If you’re really dead set on going to see this, I won’t discourage you from making the trip. Igor has a few loveable characters and some great voice work by Jennifer Coolidge, but don’t be surprised when halfway through you mumble to yourself, “I should have gone to fucking synagogue.”