This week, I’m excited to announce that I’ve finally discovered the identity of the gloriously-mustached actor who played near-identical henchmen in both The Equalizer and John Wick. But first, I’d like to talk about the most gritty and insane version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The year was 1992, William Bradley Pitt was a young actor with only bit parts to his name- then came his first movie leading role. A man named Ralph Bakshi, a Palestinian director who’s other major movie was the X-rated anthropomorphic cat sex film Fritz The Cat (which, to date, is still the highest-grossing indie animation film), hired Brad to star in his next adult animated film: Cool World. Many people who have seen it are astonished that Pitt still works in the business.
Cool World is like the most confusing and messed up Cartoon/Real Life movie I’ve ever seen (although, to be fair, the only other members of that list are aforementioned Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space “Motherfucking” Jam).
Okay, so the year is 1947 and Brad Pitt is coming home from WWII to visit his mom. He and his mother get in to a motorcycle accident- she dies, and he is accidentally brought to the cartoon universe of “Cool World” by Dr. Vincent Whiskers. Dr. Whiskers puts Frank in control of “Cool World” while he journeys into the real world.
47 years later, cartoonist Jack Deebs is arrested for the murder of a man he caught having an affair with his wife. During his time in prison, he creates the comic strip “Cool World,” starring the noir femme fatale Holli Would (GET IT? IT’S CLEVER!). Deebs is transported to “Cool World” by Holli (because apparently that’s an easy thing to do?) and she tells him that she desperately wants to journey to the real world but Police Officer Brad Pitt won’t let her. After he’s released from prison, Holli transports Deebs back to “Cool World” to help her escape. Long story short, a lot of stupid things happen, Brad Pitt gets killed, comes back as a cartoon character, both Holli and Deebs get trapped first inside a fountain pen, then inside an actual comic book- oh and they search for a mystical artifact called the “spike of power.”
It’s a confusing and horrifyingly messed-up movie, and Ralph Bakshi needs to seek psychiatric help because he clearly has some problems.
So, it tries to follow in the noir style, with multiple plots, twists among them, and the gritty detective tropes. But instead, it’s just stupid, scattered, and uncomfortable to watch. Through several points in the movie, I made that face you make when you smell spoiled milk. Mainly because Deebs has sex with a cartoon that transforms her into Kim Basinger. Also because it’s feels so dirty- all of it. I mean, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Had almost cartoon sex, but overall it felt cool and fun and didn’t make me take a shower after watching it. Where did this movie go so horribly and disgustingly wrong? Let’s take a look, shall we?
First off, not to blame the director- but I’m going to blame the director. Bakshi has straight- up said that the only reason he made the film was to make money:
“I made 1,500 bucks in 10 years of painting; I thought it would be nice to pick up a piece of change. So I called my lawyer, who was still speaking to me because no one ever leaves Hollywood, and asked him where I should go to sell a movie.”
This wasn’t a labor of love (unlike his similar god-awful animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings), this was a labor of lust. Now the original idea he pitched was actually for a horror film in which a cartoon and a human have sex and birth a hybrid baby who comes to the real world to murder his abandoning father. The project got bought and then secretly rewritten by the producer of Friday the 13th parts 2-8, Frank Mancuso Jr. Oddly enough, the horror producer thought the horror idea blew, and totally reworked the script until only the phrase “a cartoon and a human have sex” was left.
Secondly, the effects are horrendous. Now, this was 1992, mind you, we didn’t really have the fancy, uncannily realistic CGI of modern days. Still, Who Framed Roger Rabbit had much better cartoon-human interaction effects. Not to continually compare the two movies, but they’re almost identical.
They’re noir throw-backs featuring real life humans and cartoons interacting. Actually, Who Framed Roger Rabbit took its plot directly from an abandoned Chinatown sequel. Cool World took its plot from The Devil himself.
The movie looks so horrifically cheap, and it’s because clearly nobody tried. The lighting on Pitt never matches the lighting on the cartoons. And when Brad Pitt is on his motorcycle, it’s painfully obvious they just did it in front of a projector screen- their hair doesn’t even move!
It’s called “Rough Draft Studios” because they never revise the script before making the movie.
Their 1947 version of “Las Vegas” actually doesn’t look that far off from the smaller Las Vegas strip that actually existed in 1947. Unfortunately any attempts at accuracy (or quality, for that matter) are shattered when the casino just has the word “GAMBLING” in giant letters on it. Thanks, Bakshi, it’s Las Vegas, we get it.
Now, effects don’t make a movie (looking at you, George Lucas), but super bad effects can ruin a movie. Some movies have bad effects because they were made a long time ago- not this film. Again it’s because nobody tried and nobody cared; Bakshi drew with one hand and probably masturbated with the other (no, but seriously, he’s a screwed up individual).
Fucking seamless integration
One thing (and the only thing) positive I’ll say about Cool World is that whoever did the matte paintings for the background did a smash-up job. They actually look really cool, and often times were the only thing I looked at. That being said, they are always very clearly matte paintings as a flat backdrop. They make no attempt to give a sense of depth or anything like that (you know, quality).
Unfortunately the plot is stupidly convoluted, needlessly immature, and falls apart in at least 100 places (conservative estimate). The fact that it’s on Netflix is an affront to all of the other quality programming and film that occupies the same servers. If you haven’t yet, go watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? instead.
So, back in my review of John Wick, I talked about a certain henchman that appeared in both movies with the most glorious of pointy mustaches. My brother John and I referred to him as “Tactical Wario.” In reality, his name is Tait Fletcher. Hold him in your hearts, because he is a national treasure.
It gets weirder though, turns out not only was Tait in both The Equalizer and John Wick, but he’s been in THREE OTHER FILMS THAT I’VE REVIEWED!
I now have to embark upon a mustache hunt to find him. It’s like he’s this magical mustached unicorn majestically prancing through all of my reviews on a rainbow of facial hair, and I am graced by his presence. I hope to review many more films with him in the future.
Next week, upon suggestion from my brother, I’ll be watching the 1980’s WWE movie No Holds Barred, better known as “That movie with Hulk Hogan saying ‘dookie.'”
I hope you’re happy.
Before I go for the week, I have to mention that if you haven’t seen “Too Many Cooks” yet. You really need to, it is 90’s nostalgia parody that descends into Lovecraftian levels of insanity and one of the most brilliantly sublime things I have ever seen. My brother John has called it “Weaponized surrealism,” and actor Simon Pegg has called it “one of the most brilliant things in the history of media.”
Truly, it is someone’s magnum opus.
In the meantime, be sure to check out my other column Trope-ic Thunder, where I discuss science tropes in the media. There will actually be a new column this week!
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