Cool World (1992) | Animated and Degraded
After the success of Robert Zemekis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), famed adult animation director, Ralph Bakshi, (after an extended hiatus) wanted to dip his foot into the live-action/cartoon hybrid concept with a little film called Cool World, which he pitched to Paramount Pictures in 1990. The film was released in 1992.
(WARNING: The following review will contain just a bit more harsh language on my part and inappropriate topics than our usual fare, which is in keeping with Mr. Bakshi’s tastes and his outlook on life. Like he says, “it’s just the truth.” I’ll still handle it as tastefully as possible. But please just be mindful of all that before diving in.)
The story is about Jack Deebs: an ex-convict suspected for the murder of his wife, and a famed comic-book artist, known for creating the series Cool World. After being released from prison and moving into a new home, Deebs inexplicably gets transported to the world of his comic book series by way of an unknown power (really, no explanation is directly given), where he gets his first real glimpse of his favorite creation, nightclub dancer, Holli Would. As Deebs begins to travel to Cool World more and more, Holli develops a strong sexual attraction to Jack, and confesses her one true dream of one day traveling to the “Real World,” and even becoming “Real” herself, so that she can explore what it’s like to live and love as a “Real Woman.”
This creates a serious problem, however, for our resident law enforcer, the self-appointed sheriff of Cool World, Frank Harris—a former US Army Soldier, just returned from World War II, and transported to Cool World by a Dr. Vincent Whiskers, in 1945. Frank may not be as bad as Judge Doom, but he does have a particular thorn in his side when someone tries to break the one big rule you never break in Cool World: Noids (real humans) don’t have sex with Doodles (cartoon characters). So Frank takes it upon himself to watch the movements and actions of Mr. Deebs and Holli for the next few days to make sure they don’t do it with each other. But of course Frank can’t be everywhere, so the deed is done, and apparently this transforms Holli into a “Real Woman.”
Upon this new revelation, Holli convinces Deebs to take her back to the “Real World” so that she can experience all of its fruits and spoils. And so the chase is on, as after being stuck in Cool World for who knows how long, Frank Harris must now travel back to the “Real World” in its modern day, and stop Holli before she causes irreversible damage to the “Real World,” Cool World, and the multi-verse at large.
So I imagine after reading all that that some of you didn’t quite realize that was the plot to this film. Unfortunately that’s about all the plot you’ll get, but I’d like to save that rant for just a little while, because we’re going to be talking a lot about story-telling today, kids.
The one good thing you can obviously point out about Cool World is its animation.
If you go back and look at Ralph Bakshi’s earlier work—Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, Wizards—you can tell that just like in Cool World there are multiple variations in art style and animation fluidity, based upon which animator was dealing with which characters and scenes. There is a visible spectrum of quality to each of Ralph’s productions, but I suppose it could be most obvious here. A lot of the characters in this universe are clearly based on the 1940s style of character design—early Bugs Bunny, Max Fleischer, and Disney productions—mixed in also with the more grungy and gross-out late 80s and early 90s style: which was perhaps pioneered by people like Ralph Bakshi back in the 1960s with Terry Toons, Ralph’s own work in the 1970s, and then his revived Mighty Mouse series in the mid-80s, which led to things like Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Eek the Cat. (In fact, Ralph actually showed up in an episode of Ren & Stimpy as himself.) So it’s all a mixture of art styles to begin with, and therefore different animators were assigned to the different styles in turn. Ralph can’t be everywhere of course, and he had a reasonably strong staff behind him on all of his pictures.
The stand-out character, though, is most definitely Holli Would, who has some truly stunning performance animation behind her, as well as a striking fluidity which brings her closer to the “Real World” than her other Doodle counter-parts. Like many of Bakshi’s films, I’m sure some rotoscope was used for Holli’s character throughout all of her scenes. But I think unlike American Pop and Fire and Ice, the rotoscoping was covered up more like it is in Don Bluth’s Anastasia: where the live-action figures are almost nonexistent due to the lack of the typically unnaturally fluid movements, or the eerily detailed facial features. And although Holli’s character is brilliantly portrayed by the very cartoon-like Kim Basinger (I must admit a very good casting choice for what the character called for), Holli’s facial animation is just a bit more soft and curvy than Kim’s own face: which still helps to remove Holli from the appearance of a “Real” human woman. Not to mention the exaggerated physical proportions.
Similarly, I must commend the production design team for coming up with some of the craziest looking animated environments I have yet to see on film before: primarily designed by painter Barry Jackson. I quite enjoy the dark, twisted, almost perverted style that’s prevalent here: somewhat like a Dick Tracy comic gone to hell. It’s a bit Tim Burton’esque as well, which I imagine was intentional, since the Dick Tracy movie came out just a short while after Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, and then this came out only two more years after that. So that dark twisted comic-book aesthetic was obviously popular for a time.
I did like portions of what Ralph tried to do with the two-dimensional set pieces for when either Jack or Frank would walk into a scene whenever the production team didn’t want to use a green-screen composite shot. And it was one of Ralph’s personal pet projects to achieve a sort of “walk-in painting” effect in one of his films some day. However, it doesn’t always work, since the production design and set design teams felt it unnecessary to give the floors and streets much variation in height or texture. And I think, oddly enough, the lack of surface texture and visible terrain is one of the things that made the film feel so flat and unbelievable whenever the live-action actors were present. There wasn’t a strong enough blend between the two extremes of live-action and animation when there really should have been.
I think if we had gotten a scene where Jack Deebs had to chase after someone throughout Cool World on foot, we would have gotten a better connection between him and his landscape since it would have required him to run along those ridiculously twisting road ways and side-walks, and we could have had some really striking shot design. I also wish we could have somehow had a three-dimensionally shifting camera perspective, where the camera follows Holli’s car through one of the bizarre buildings with the giant teeth, much like many flying scenes that you might see in the Studio Ghibli films. I’m sure Ralph has never really attempted that sort of imagery before, and probably wouldn’t be prepared to. But I just think it’s another lost opportunity on the film’s part, considering all of the great visuals present, which are ripe for unique points of view.
The Cinematography (half the time) was quite nice. I enjoyed the lighting choices on the live actors both inside and outside Cool World, and the attempts they made to blend the world of live-action and animation together. But obviously Who Framed Roger Rabbit did it better, not only because the lighting was more carefully chosen for each environment, or the animation more carefully choreographed to match all of the camera moves, but the animation was given photo-realistic shading that was post-processed through Industrial Light and Magic: something Ralph Bakshi clearly didn’t have the budget for more than a few shots.
But like I said, some of the shots in this film I think actually work, and some even really stand out. So I can’t fault the film for not trying to get a unique result, because I truly think they had a goal in mind, and they managed to reach it once in a while.
Lastly, I’d like to speak briefly on the involvement of some popular voice actors in the cast of the animated characters. The three notable actors being Charles “Charlie” Adler as Frank Harris’ partner, Nails, Maurice Lamarche as numerous characters, including Frank’s first friend in Cool World, Dr. Vincent Whiskers, and perhaps the main stand-out in the voice cast, Candi Milo: who provides a very impressive and unique performance compared to her usual roles, as the lovely (and arguably more three-dimensional) Lonette: Frank Harris’ Doodle girl-friend.
I’ve always been fond of Charlie Adler, as you can read in my two reviews on the Tiny Toon Adventures franchise, and I talk a bit about Maurice Lamarche in my review of Balto II: Wolf Quest. But Candi Milo is quite the character herself, because I don’t find that she gets all that many roles in cartoons, and never really did. She just sort of pops up at random here or there if you watch enough animated works. Specifically some of you may know her as the replacement voice for Dexter in Dexter’s Lab when the show got revived in the early 2000s. And she played Nora Wakeman, XJ-9’s mother on My Life as a Teenage Robot: which I consider to be Candi Milo’s best VA role. But as far as I’ve seen, I’d consider Lonette here to be a close second, as her voice is not one you’d immediately expect since Candi doesn’t play this sort of character very often, unlike Cathe Soucie or Grey Delisle, or Jennifer Hale, but it really is a beautiful job, and helps to give Lonette a stronger presence and a better character than she otherwise might have had.
OKAY… So… onto the bad stuff.
In order to explain the majority of the main issues with this film, you have to understand what occurred during its pre-production, because it was a fiasco to say the least.
Initially, when Ralph Bakshi went on his own volition to pitch the project to Paramount (a project that was all his own), he gave them a story that was essentially about “a cartoon and human having sex and conceiving a hybrid child who visits the real world to murder the father who abandoned her.” So it’s very much like a mid 1970s revenge flick and female empowerment project, mixed with a live-action/animation hybrid picture. This original plot would have kept in line with Bakshi’s other racy, raunchy, and very socially dark material, and probably would have had a much grittier and satisfying style and content to it, where-as the version we got is heavily watered down and kept back from being what it so desperately wants to, just to keep the rating at a PG-13.
The chief reason why it was all altered and turned into the film we know today was due to Producer Frank Mancuso Jr., son of the Paramount President (as it turns out), who felt he had an opportunity to take what Bakshi had begun, and change it to meet his own personal needs. Instead of a dark revenge tale about a girl murdering the father who left her family behind, Mancuso Jr. wanted to see a film “about what happens when someone creates a world, becomes defined by it, and then can’t escape […] a film about being trapped by your own creation.” And that is basically what we got. Except the only reason the film turned out that way was because Mancuso had Bakshi’s original script secretly rewritten by what appears to be two hack writers who had absolutely NO idea what story structure was, and farted out this garbage that neither makes coherent sense, nor allows for any scene to work in relation with the scenes before and after. There are no complete character or story arcs, many elements are not properly established, and we have no context for numerous aspects of this film. It is, by all accounts, an absolute freaking mess.
So what did Bakshi do? Well after punching Mancuso Jr. square in the mouth, Paramount didn’t give Bakshi much choice as to whether or not he had to finish the picture. So Ralph simply took what control he had left, and kept all of his animators basically in the dark (beyond those who were animating the characters who spoke lines) and told them to just create something funny, do something interesting, and have fun with it. And that’s definitely what they did.
I originally was going to write a rant about one of the strangest things you’ll see in this film. But considering my newly found information that explains that a lot of this might actually be a big FU to Mancuso Jr and the film’s producers, I think I’ll give it a lot more slack. But let’s still talk about it for a moment.
So one of the things that you will notice right away once one of the dialogue scenes begins in Cool World, is that every so often, a bunch of random cartoon characters will pop in out of nowhere, and bash each other over the head or contort themselves in some fashion, before disappearing about as fast as they came. And this happens in every single dialogue scene in the movie.
I suppose it’s still a viable question to ask why Bakshi would have wanted to distract the audience from the story he’s trying (and being forced) to tell, the moments we’re trying to have with the characters, and the atmosphere that he’s obviously trying to build with all of these crazy twisted buildings and infrastructure? But it’s obvious now that he did it all just to say “Screw it! I’m either going over-board with this picture, or I’m gonna get sued.” So any of the specific complaints I used to have about these random sight-gags are null and void at this point due to extenuating circumstances. Though you will obviously still find them incredibly distracting and very annoying.
But beyond the addition of scene interrupting cartoon gags, the single, most glaring thing you will realize after watching this film is that the TWO moonlighting screen-writers (plus a third who was not credited) had absolutely NO idea how to structure a film: because this thing is an absolute train wreck.
For the the second half of this review, I’d like to break down for you the SIX major story points that, for some reason or other, were just not established in the plot when they should have been, or were just not explained and/or developed very well during the course of the story in order for them to make an impact on the plot, the characters, or the audience. And my God, there should have been no excuse for all this. But I guess if you’re goal is to re-write a script in just under a month in order to force your director into making what you want to make, you’re gonna end up with a P.O.S.
Who is Jack, what’s his backstory, and why should I care about him?
I think it’s rather unfair to us as an audience to not have been shown Jack Deebs’ backstory first, and how he went from an up-and-coming comic book artist to spousal murderer, because it removes us quite a bit from his character and his story when it is so obviously trying to be a story about him. The most we ever get about his backstory is that he works a little on some new artwork of Holli Would while in his jail cell, and then once he gets released he takes a stroll on the Vegas strip to check out a comic book shop to pick up some inspiration, and the attractive cashier talks with him a bit about his work. Then some guy pops up, makes a wise-crack about Deebs having killed his wife and virtually getting off for it scot free, and then that’s it: we just spend the rest of the film watching him to random stuff, mugging for the camera the best he can, and no further development is done with his character.
We virtually have NO context as to why he was convicted of the crime of killing his wife. We have no evidence as to whether or not he really did kill her or not: which I think unfortunately makes him seem rather sinister and creepy throughout the film. We are given NO quiet contemplative moments with Jack Deebs in order to understand his internal struggles or his emotional state regarding his life and his work. And most importantly, we are given NO backstory as to how the comic of Cool World was created. What was its inception? Did it stem from some particular event or observation in his younger life? When did he come up with the character Holli Would? Was she based on a girl he met once and that pissed off his wife, so they got into a fight and he accidentally killed her? Or was Holli based on his wife, and he slowly became more attached to the idealized image of his wife, which also could have made his wife angry with him?
So many possible avenues to take this story down and yet NONE of them are explored. It’s such a severe lost opportunity.
And what’s worse is that by movie’s end, the little scientist fellow named Vincent Whiskers explains to one of Jack’s neighbors that “he’s becoming the hero he always wanted to be.” Like… WHAT?! Where did that come from? We had NO context for that line, no establishment of Jack’s want or need to be a hero, or a particular lack of heroic qualities in him prior to this! In fact the last real thing we see him do before he performs his big heroic deed is he grabs the face of a casino bouncer and grimaces at the guy for no apparent reason other than to be a dick.
Where the hell was the establishment and development of this character arc? Where does it say in the earlier scenes that Jack had an internal need to become a hero when he previously felt that he couldn’t, or that he had failed to be one at an earlier time? Nowhere, because either no one thought to write it in, or it was stupidly removed in editing. And trust me, there are plenty of scenes where it feels like something has obviously been removed, and yet, again, considering what I know now, I’ll bet you the writers really did forget to write it all in, because they’re a bunch of #%!&$* who have no sense of story structure or pacing. But get ready, cause we’ve got a lot more issues regarding their writing skills.
What is Cool World?
Besides the fact that we are never given the story of Cool World’s creation, we are also never given a full tour and exploratory exposition scene about what Cool World is and what it’s like to be there. Nowhere in this film, other than a few issue covers, do we actually see Cool World in its comic book form, or any of the artwork and panels inside it.
The first moment that we get even a glimpse of Cool World is when former army soldier Frank Harris gets zapped inside it from the 1940s, but then the next time we see it, we’re still inside of it rather than outside of it, which makes it much harder to understand that Cool World is supposed to be a comic book, rather than an autonomous universe all its own. Because based on the information presented to us, one could argue that Cool World perhaps already exists on its own, and that Jack Deebs has simply found himself dreaming about or traveling to it from time to time, and had decided one day to write a comic book about what he had witnessed. Thus gaining a lot of undue popularity because his comic is actually a biographical piece rather than an original and fictional one. But the opening minutes of this film are so convoluted and so slap-bang and haphazard, that the audience is given no time to take in and properly digest what they’re witnessing. No explanation of the twisted and crazy buildings with faces on them, no context for the multitude of cartoon character inhabitants of varying styles and animation eras, and no explanation of what exactly the genre of Cool World is. Is it a comedy, is it a drama, is it a noir, or is it based more in horror and gross-out?
What I would have easily suggested to the writers (though they probably would’ve cared less) is that the film should have opened—after we meet Frank back in the 1940s—with an entire scene diving into an issue of Cool World with giant pages flipping and changing, and each of the flat 2D panels transforming into animated panels with shifting backgrounds. And then, much like a motion-comic, we actually watch as the story of a chapter within an issue of Cool World unfolds. We meet the main characters, we see them get up to some trouble, we eventually meet Holli Would as she seductively charms one of the perverted mobster characters, she breaks the fourth wall by starring directly at us, maybe we even meet a former Chief Detective of Cool World (since I assume the role had to have been filled by someone before Frank). And then we pull back to see the comic being inked and finalized on one of Jack Deebs’ drawing tables, just before his wife gets killed. And that could all segue into him finding himself in jail, where he continues to draw Holli in the opening scene that we actually do see.
I think for all intents and purposes that would have been a much more coherent and much more effective way to open this film, and would have properly introduced every aspect of it to the audience, without just throwing you head long into it like Jack is.
How is Jack going to and from Cool World at completely random intervals?
Speaking of being thrown into it, the first serious question I think I asked once things got started was, “How the hell is Jack transporting to Cool World?” What is this weird blue and yellow lightning magic crap that keeps disintegrating him, and then tossing him like a hacky-sack into Cool World every other night?
At the beginning of the film, it is established that a Doctor Vicent Whiskers took what he called a spike (a glowing white road spike by the looks of it) and used it to tear open a portal from the Cool World into the ”Real World.” Although for some strange reason it opened up a portal to the “Real World” of late 1945, rather than the current year of 1992: which obviously begs another question of “why are we bringing time travel into a movie about trans-dimensional travel?” But I digress.
Even with this fact that this Doctor Whiskers was tampering with these experiments, it still is not directly stated one way or another how they are or are-not related to how Jack Deebs travels to and from Cool World. Nor is it ever directly established later how the spike that we see at the beginning is related to the spike that we see at the end that Holli wields at the top of a Casino in Las Vegas. Because at the top of this casino, there is apparently an epicenter of Cool World energy that allows that universe to converge with ours: resulting in a very Ghostbusters meets Ghostbusters 2 effect, with swarming hordes of cartoon weirdos flying about the place with ghost trails behind them, and red slimy sludge oozing from the Casino’s rooftop.
No no. LOL. I am COMPLETELY serious! It’s Ghostbusters meets Woody Woodpecker.
Who is Frank, why is he here, and why should he matter?
Going back a bit to one of my previous questions, why does this film involve time travel along with trans-dimensional travel? I mean, we’re making a movie about a graphic artist who is inexplicably transported into his own comic book, and the many weird and strange circumstances that occur there. That’s what Mancuso wanted when he secretly had the script re-written. So why is it that we also have to have a subplot about an returning Army Soldier from 1945, who—after his mother dies while riding with him in a motorcycle accident—gets transported to Cool World, and must now become its chief law officer? Who, I might add, also has a sexy cartoon girlfriend who he can’t have sex with, because apparently that’s not allowed.
There is just no call for him to exist in this film, other than to perhaps comment on the struggles of a returning war veteran, coupled with the tragic loss of his mother, which creates in him a desire to remain in Cool World (the fictional and non-leathal world) rather than want to return to the “Real World”. But I think that primary character struggle could have just as easily been handled with an ex-army soldier in the modern day, or perhaps someone who was already a cop, and maybe ended up losing his son to a tragic accident that he committed himself.
But wait a minute. If we go back to what I said about Jack Deebs’ character being written with a (nonexistent) character arc of wanting to become the hero he always wanted to be, and then transpose that onto Frank Harris’ character: what if Frank had been a cop in the real world, was called to a hostage situation where a young kid was involved (boy or girl), and he failed to save the kid’s life, which prompted his strong negative feelings about himself, as well as his perceived failure as a man of justice, and as a hero. That would have made a whole lot more sense. Which would have given a stronger character flaw for Frank that could have been a conversation point that he would discuss with Jack, once Jack was transported there himself. Then Jack could have told Frank all about how he created Cool World and why it was the way it was. And perhaps Cool World even stemmed from a similar fear or negative side of Jack that Frank could appeal to.
Once again, so many great possibilities that are never even touched upon or attempted.
Why Can’t Noids have sex with Doodles?
To move away a bit from character flaws and world development, let’s talk a bit about one of the key story-driving points in the film that is oddly never explained to us outright, leaving us to wait until something actually happens before we understand what it really amounts to.
Why can’t Noids have sex with Doodles?
Well first off, what is a Noid? Obviously a “noid” must mean a human-noid, or a “real-life” human. Except the term “human-noid” basically amounts to ”something that has an appearance resembling a human being:” which means that pretty much anything that walks on two legs, has primarily five fingers and five toes (though some humanoid creatures have had only three), has a generally symmetrical face, has proportions resembling those of any stage in the human life-cycle, from baby to adult-hood, and may or may not possess similar respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs, can also be defined as a “Noid.”
Therefore, it should be safe to assume that almost anyone in Cool World is technically a “noid” as well.
I understand the term was chosen both as a unique and simple nick-name, as well as a nick-name that sounded “cool.” But breaking it down, the term falls flat, as both Holli and Lonette specifically could be classified as human-“noid” just as well as Jack and Frank can, because they are far closer in appearance and physical stability (they don’t bend or contort as much as other cartoon characters) than any of the other crazy characters within Cool World.
But back to the subject of inter-media sex.
It is stated at least 4-5 times during the film that “Noids can’t have sex with Doodles,” and yet not once is it ever explained why. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If you break the law, then you do the time for it. But would it have really hurt to not only say what the law is but to also explain the rationale behind it too? I know we don’t always get that kind of curtsey with real actual US legislature, but I think it would be helpful not just to the characters but to the audience as well to understand what the repercussions of breaking this law actually are.
What the hell happens if a Noid has sex with a Doodle? What strange merging occurs other than a physical one between the two parties? What sort of transference is made? Does the dynamic of the situation change if it’s a “Noid” man climaxing with a Doodle woman, or a “Noid” woman climaxing with a Doodle man?
Well unfortunately we aren’t given the opportunity to see the flip side of that coin, as both Jack and Frank are “Noids” and their girlfriends are Doodles. So we don’t actually get to see a human woman with a cartoon man, and whether or not something different occurs. Though considering the butt-ugly blokes around in Cool World, I’m sure that’s for the best. And I’m just going to assume that the law is absolute and applies to all situations.
Eventually the answer is finally revealed to us, although strangely not entirely. You see, once Holli does “do it” with Jack, she transforms into a “Real” human woman, and immediately wants to leave Cool World to check out the “Real World.”
By the end of the film, and by the time all of the facts are given to us, I can only assume that the main reason the law was put in place was not just to prevent cartoon people from turning human, or human people turning into cartoons (as we eventually see happen to Jack Deebs), but it was to also prevent a change of mental stability within the minds of the parties in question, as Holli Would progressively grows unstable the longer she stays in the “Real World.” First she hijacks a Frank Sonnatra Jr. performance to sing her own overly seductive number. Then she literally kicks Jack out of his own car to drive over to a nearby Casino in order to find someone named Vegas Vinnie.
By the way. Did I forget to mention Vegas Vinnie? Well don’t worry, the film does it plenty: but they never explain the significance of him very well. And he ends up just being the old Doctor, Vincent Whiskers, who had been living it up in the “Real World” for quite some time.
Once Holli gets to the Casino, she annoys multiple people asking if they know Vegas Vinnie, and then gets promptly thrown out for not having any money to spend. After which, she begins to scale the side of the casino/hotel in order to grab the spike at the top which plugs the hole linking the two dimensions together, in order to bring the Cool World dimension into ours. (This is starting to feel a bit like the Super Mario Brothers Movie.) And she also ends up knocking Frank Harris off the building, basically killing him on the spot. But don’t worry he comes back as a Doodle man later.
Despite all of this, though, it’s never fully explained whether Holli was just this crazy and selfish to being with, or whether these actions were the result of turning human and traveling to the “Real World,” effectively getting an extreme “High” from the experience, and desperately wanting to keep that “High.”
Whatever the case, it’s still clearly a bad idea to have sex with a Doodle. Though I’m sure many more will still attempt it. It apparently was never a taboo in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit universe, even though no one ever really did go all the way with a cartoon man or woman.
Who are Jack’s Neighbors, and why should we care?
Perhaps the most pointless and out-of-place aspect to this film is by far Jack Deebs’ neighbors.
You think I’m kidding, you really should believe that I’m making this up, but after explaining all of that other crap to you, guess what else those hack-job writers tried to squeeze into this film, but failed miserably to work in? Jack’s concerned neighbors.
Now the neighbors in question are two young females, one of which I assume is an older sister with two younger brothers. And based on the scenes and dialogue that exists, my guess is that there was at least one entire scene cut from the film involving Frank popping back from Cool World one night, his entire house exploding and bursting with strobing lights, which then prompted his two young female neighbors to run over and see what was going on.
Now the two neighbors already do this in the film when Jack comes back with the humanized version of Holli. But I suspect that there’s actually a missing scene or two where they did this previously, which resulted in a conversation amounting to Jack giving an excuse for the lights, the noise, and the mess, one of the women asking if he was the Jack Deebs the comic book artist—as we see later one of the women is a fan of Cool World—and Jack getting to know the two women a little bit, and learning both of their names, because he introduces them BY-name to Holli when they meet her later.
And I know that this missing scene has to have been filmed, because of course, why the hell would you write a script that did not have this scene when you clearly act as if there was one when we meet these characters later? We even meet up again with one of the two women, I’m assuming the big sister type, who actually helps Frank and Jack go after Holli in her mom’s car, and who subsequently helps out a bit during the harrowing climax near the side of the Casino on the Vegas Strip. The trouble is, I have no idea who this girl’s name is, I have no idea why she’s here or why she has any stakes in this story, and I have no idea why I should care about her as a character. The only purpose she serves is to be the Inspector Gadget/Beastmaster 2 young spunky female tag-along: a character type that serves no purpose in the outcome or grander elements of this narrative, and is by far the most baffling inclusion amongst all of the other mindless elements present.
Well, now that all the gratuitous specific rants are done, I’d like to briefly mention an aspect of this film that I have forgotten to talk about up till now: the music.
At first the music to this film really doesn’t impact you, because at least in my case, I found myself far more entranced and even confused by the visuals than I was listening to the score or the soundtrack. But after giving it a closer listen on its own, it’s quite the unique set of songs and background tracks. In fact, it is one of the “Coolest” and most punk awesome soundtracks from the 90s that I have ever heard. And what’s funny is that if you listen to this soundtrack, and you’re aware of a little Japanese anime called Panty & Stocking (something we may eventually cover on the Cinema Warehouse), you might notice the striking similarity in musical stylings despite the fact that Panty & Stocking was made nearly 20 years after this movie was. Just take a listen to these two songs back to back. (WARNING: Panty & Stocking is not for the faint of heart, or the highly conservative individual, so please seek out with caution due to extremely suggestive and disturbing content.)
I just gotta say, there is some pretty great tracks in here that I never knew existed before. And now that I know these artists exist, I can now seek out more of their stuff, because I love a little 90s grunge and techno once in a while, but I never get to hear much of it.
Further more, the more orchestral side of the soundtrack actually has its own separate album, all written and composed by Mark Isham, who provides us with some very soft smooth 90s jazz, very much like the beginning of the Cowboy Bebop track “Space Lion,” mixed in with some classic 40s-styled tunes (“The Cool World Stomp”), and one song (“A Pen Job”) that sounds a lot like the first Sly Cooper game. Quite a broad mixture even here, I must say. And if you want to see just how close my estimation of his songs are to these other songs, I encourage you to check out the links that I’ve provided.
To close out this review, I think it was commendable of Ralph Bakshi for wanting to try and expand the idea of a Toon Town-like environment from just a small segment of a film into the primary location, and expand on its involvement in a larger story. But due to unforseen struggles and a hostile battle for creative control over the film’s story and characters, the structure of the Cool World story is so hastily thrown together, so convoluted, and so poorly designed and executed, that you’d swear the two writers had penned the script, only had one copy of it, didn’t number the pages, dropped it out the car window one day, and had to go scrambling around a park to retrieve all the pages before they flew into the wind, only managing to pick up 75 percent of what was originally written. Then this script was handed off to Ralph Bakshi, where he promptly began production without even getting a chance to read the train-wreck that was left in his hands, and shot the entire film as it was.
That would be my simple explanation for what I just witnessed, anyway. But of course, maybe the two guys who worked on the screenplay were just $#!t writers.
Like many other people, I love the visuals of this movie, and I absolutely love the animation work done on Holli Would, even if her character becomes utterly repulsive and horrible by movie’s end. There was so much raw potential and so many better choices that could have been made to make this a more coherent and stronger piece, that it just shocks me to my core that there wasn’t better control being taken with the ultimate vision here. The film really wasn’t as gritty or as raw or socially controversial as Ralph’s earlier work. And what has been so obviously cut or removed from the film’s story wouldn’t have included controversial content anyway, and actually would’ve greatly improved the film’s story. So I guess if there were entire scenes shot that might have made things more clear and understandable, they apparently were cut for run-time.
I can’t really say a whole lot more than that. It’s a film that went down the wrong path and had a very messy production from beginning to end, and was not up to the standards that Mr. Bakshi usually sets for himself. Although in some respects, he still got what he wanted in the end. If you’re so inclined, perhaps this is something you should give a look if you’re keen on unique animation and film visuals. It’s a true product of the late 80s and early 90s. Beyond that, it’s really just a one-time watch for novelty’s sake, nothing more.
Ralph’s other work, however, is a whole different story. And we’ll get to some of that in due time. Wizards anybody?
Take care everyone.