John Cusack is the innocent voice of Igor, a hunchbacked laboratory assistant to the doomed mad scientist Dr. Glickenstein (voiced by John Cleese) in this irresistible animated comedy that’s rooted in the look of early monster movie classics. Unlike every other hunchbacked “Igor” in the dark town of Malaria, this one dreams of creating his own imposing monster to win the first place prize at the annual Evil Science Fair that Dr. Schadenfreude (voiced by Eddie Izzard) has dominated for the past 17 years. With the help of a grumpy and indestructible bucktoothed bunny named Scamper (hilariously voiced by Steve Buscemi) and a lively brain in a jar (Sean Hayes), Igor creates an unpredictably sensitive female hippogriff named Eve (delightfully voiced by Molly Shannon) who thinks of herself only as an aspiring actress. The non-scary animation is charming and the goofy humor is appropriate for little ones. Christian Slater, Jay Leno and Jennifer Coolidge add their inspired vocal talents to the Halloween-themed fun.
September kid’s movies are few and far between, so it comes as some solace that Igor, with its asymmetrical characters, is a gentle kind of children’s movie that eschews toilet humor (mostly) in favor of a colorful gothic romanticism that pokes fun in all directions. Much of its subtle charm comes from uptempo songs by jazz great Louis Prima. The first act especially features jump blues tunes that percolate under the zany action, which takes place mainly in the confines of a giant lab where Igor sets about animating his bride-of-Frankenstein-styled creature with an evil bone (we know so because it glows green) in her finger. In order to win at the science fair, Eve must knock out the lesser creations of every other mad genius using a brutish physicality that she simply doesn’t consciously possess. In spite of her gigantic size and severely lopsided body—she’s like a hippo ballerina crossed with a stick figure—Eve fancies herself as a thespian ingenue.
Eve says pretentious method actor things like, “As an actor I feel things very deeply.” And so it’s up to Igor to reprogram his surprisingly intelligent invention into being evil by placing her in front of a black and white television set showing clips from classic monster movies. The plan goes awry when jar-brained “Brian” makes a switch that makes Eve all the more convinced that it’s better to be, “a good nobody than an evil somebody.” Fortunately for Igor, his truly evil competition Dr. Schadenfreude and shape-shifting assistant Jacklyn (Jennifer Coolidge) hatch a plan with a different outcome than they imagine.
Believing she’s been cast in a stage version of Annie that Igor is directing, Eve prepares her version of the song “Tomorrow” to which she pirouettes with ball-wrecking effect. The musical shift from jump blues to Broadway tunes might be a little jarring for some adult ears, but it accentuates Igor as a mishmash of eccentric elements taken from the golden age of monster movies and set against a festive atmosphere of ecstatic momentum. There’s nothing here to cause nightmares for little audience members. Igor is good clean fun. MTW