In a world gone bad, Igor wants to make things worse. And if he does, he'll likely get a medal and a job promotion for his efforts.
In the land of Malaria, under a perpetually stormy sky, citizens have slowly grown accustomed to the idea that bad is good and good is bad. Want to make a good living? Then become an evil scientist and create evil inventions to show off at the annual Evil Science Fair held in the king's colossal killiseum.
Igor wants to be just such a man, bent on brewing up a mythic monster of such morbid magnitude that everyone will finally have to recognize that he is more than just an Igor.
A note about Igor, who is an Igor: Igor is his name and it is also his class. All Igors are named Igor in this dank and dimly lit country. They're the equivalent of slaves, and they're considered to be so dumb they're reduced to fetching tools and pulling levers for their evil scientist masters. They're identified by the humps on their backs.
Most Igors are content to live out their days doing what they're supposed to be doing. But not Igor. He's got glory on the brain. Which brings us to his two sidekicks, one of whom is a malformed, old-school robot with a brain in a jar serving as a head. His name is, naturally, Brain. The other is Scamper, a bucktoothed jackalope-looking bunny critter who's too smart for his own mental health. (He reminded me a bit of the miserably melancholy Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) Igor created, er, salvaged them both, and they provide lots of hijinks-based humor to the movie. But Igor's not satisfied. He wants to create something from nothing. Something that's allliiivvve—you know, like Frankenstein.
Hoping the resulting monster will terrorize the world, he's sorely disappointed when the evil bone he's inserted malfunctions. Eva, as she comes to call herself, is the gentlest, kindest, sunniest (misshapen and patchworked) female ever cooked up in an evil Igor's laboratory.
Igor at first dares you to find anything good about it. But that's all a front to help deliver the final punch. This movie wants to teach kids that good is better than bad, no matter how commonplace bad has become. In Malaria, everything's inverted. Virtue is vice, and vice versa. So the culture that's proffered dictates a particular set of ethics. And if you follow then, you end up with some seriously twisted results.
Igor does not do that. I have a few, um, evil bones to pick with it for how it presents its upside-down world (and I'll get to them in subsequent sections), but I have nothing but praise for the central idea that Igor communicates.
Secondary to that but still interwoven is the correct assertion that doing one bad thing makes it easier to do another. And another. Similarly, doing one good thing can trigger an outbreak of goodness. Igor's interaction with Eva illustrates this concept as he desperately tries to turn her toward the dark side. Then, in an about face, implores her to regain her goodness after she's lost it.
"It's better to be a good nobody than an evil somebody," Eva concludes.
Igor, Scamper and Brain ultimately risk life and limb to banish the storm clouds and the deceptions the evil king has lowered onto his kingdom. Eva makes a significant decision to refuse the evil power that she's tempted by. (She succumbs for a moment, but quickly comes to her senses at Igor's urging.)
Forced class distinctions assigned by bodily appearance and perceived intelligence are shown to be useless and downright silly. Lying is condemned for the hurt it causes others. Prideful boasting is seen as foolish. And self-serving treachery gets the same treatment.
The issue of good vs. evil is, of course, a spiritual one. But Igor handles it in the generic form, not the specific. So God and Satan never appear. The power to reanimate life and to outright create life is handed over to gadgets, gizmos and scientific wrangling. The all-powerful command of "pull the lever!" seems to be the equivalent of abracadabra.
Dr. Schadenfreude's girlfriend, a master of disguises who goes by the names Heidi and Jaclyn, throws herself on top of Igor and kisses him madly. The scene is played for laughs, not passion, since she's trying to distract him while Schadenfreude "steals" Eva.
As Heidi, she always wears a dress that not only fails to completely cover her breasts, but pushes them up to a ridiculous degree.
As Jaclyn, her relationship with Schadenfreude seems to consist mainly of hurled insults, a representation, apparently, of what love looks like in a world given over to the wiles of evil scientists. It's indicated that in order to help Schadenfreude steal inventions she assumes all manner of identities and becomes the "girlfriend" of a number of other scientists.
A live-action snippet from an old black-and-white horror movie shows a woman wearing a bra.
Dr. Glickenstein, Igor's master, dies in a huge explosion while working on an invention. Igor sees the blast coming and half-heartedly tries to warn him, but Glickenstein pays no heed to his lowly Igor and thus pays the ultimate price for his pride. All that's left of him is a mechanical arm that gets passed around as evidence of his demise.
It's not the only experiment that goes awry. And when experiments go awry in Malaria, they really go awry. Lightning bolts shoot everywhere. There's fire, smoke, crashing equipment and general mayhem galore. At the Evil Science Fair, concocted mechanical killers battle to the death. Singing "Tomorrow" (from the musical Annie) at the top of her lungs, Eva destroys all comers, crushing and flinging them across the killiseum.
A local "brain wash" facility promises to convert your too-kind loved ones into such cruel criminals as, among other things, "ax murderers." Igor takes Eva here to get her head around horror. (It doesn't work.) He also goes to great lengths to teach Eva how to torture, maim and kill, sometimes using live stage props. (Eva wants to be an actress after her brain wash, so he's trying to trick her into doing evil by telling her that being a good actress involves destroying "props.")
A carriage chase scene involves high speeds, hairpin turns, high cliffs and crashes. Speaking of high cliffs, several characters plunge off of them. Gun-like weapons are occasionally fired. One of them shrinks its targets down to mouse-size. Faced with being chopped up into tiny "recyclable" pieces by giant, gnashing blades, Scamper gnaws off his own feet to escape and save his friends.
Scamper bites down on a high-voltage wire—with predictable cartoon results. An exploding greeting card blasts a hole through his head. Igors are used as bowling balls and punching bags. (When masters get mad at somebody else, they slap their Igors.) Igor chases after Brain with an ax.
[Spoiler Warning] The king is crushed in a brief, gore-free scene. Schadenfreude falls from a pretty good height. (In both cases, you think they're dead.)
Crude or Profane Language
One "d--n." God's name is interjected (as "god" and "gosh") at least 10 times for no good reason. There's a "heck," a "darn," an unfinished "what the ..." and a reference to shoving a pickle "right where the sun don't shine." Name-calling includes "idiot," "fool" and "smarty hunch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
A couple of the baddies loft glasses that imply alcohol.
Other Negative Elements
TV news anchor Carl Cristall is an invisible man who has taken to doing his on-camera announcing without any pants. Since he's invisible, his "exposure" is strictly imaginary, but several comments are made about his "au natural" state. At one point he scratches his naked "butt."
Laugh lines come at the expense of Eva's bulk as Louis Prima's "The Bigger the Figure" plays in the background. Heidi tells Eva she looks like she was put together in a junkyard. Scamper rolls his eyes at what he calls Eva's "woman problem." A couple of (mostly lighthearted) barbs are thrown at blind orphans. The king calls out, "Come on, boys, let's go kick some old people." Brain blurts out a line about wetting himself. An Igor talks about urinating in a Jacuzzi.
Igor shuffles into theaters all hunched over and rude at times. And it bears a purposefully sour Hunchback of Notre Dame-meets-Nightmare Before Christmas style. But it's enlivened by a VeggieTales-like moral. There's no spiritual application, per se, as there always is when tomatoes and cucumbers take the fore, but the lesson here is straightforward and valuable nonetheless.
When Dr. Schadenfreude did a particularly mean thing, I heard a girl in the row behind me blurt out to her dad, "That's not nice!" So most kids will "get" the story's reverse approach to promoting goodness even before it makes its big turn at the end. What they might remember more, though, is how coolly frivolous "evil" sometimes seems. And that's always the risk taken by tales that spend the majority of their time living in the shadows in order to illustrate how dim the darkness is: There will always be some who decide they like those shadows better than the bright light that comes later—and for only a few minutes.
"For riffing so expertly on classic horror flicks, and for plumbing the depths of horror in the relentless perkiness of "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie, it deserves a medal," writes Andrea Chase for Killer Movie Reviews.
See what I mean? A lot depends on the attitude of the person (the kid) going into the theater as to whether he or she walks out of Igor inspired to break off their evil bone and do better—or just laughing at how funny it was to watch Eva demolish Annie.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of John Cusack as Igor; Molly Shannon as Eva; Steve Buscemi as Scamper; Sean Hayes as Brain; Eddie Izzard as Dr. Schadenfreude; Christian Slater as Dr. Schadenfreude's Igor; Jennifer Coolidge as Jaclyn/Heidi; John Cleese as Dr. Glickenstein; Jay Leno as King Malbert; Arsenio Hall as Carl Cristall
Tony Leondis ( )