I have over 1,500 DVDs and 3,000 CDs, some of them generally respected as great, others are simply Guilty Pleasures.
I don’t remember how or why I saw this movie as a kid but I did, and I liked it quite a bit. But until this month when I watched it to write this week’s Guilty Pleasure, I hadn’t seen it in over 15 years. I have mixed feelings about what I just watched so this is going be one of the harder films I’ve had to do a Guilty Pleasure for. How do you describe a movie this fucked up and bizarre? I’m not sure… but I’m going to attempt to give it a shot.
The movie begins with World War II Vet Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) returning home in 1945 to his mother’s arms. As soon as he arrives he shows off his new motorcycle and tells his mom to go for a ride. A drunk driver collides with the motorcycle, killing Frank’s mother. Meanwhile, at the exact same time a cartoon character named Doctor Whiskers transports Frank into a landscape of cartoons called Cool World (I feel like I may have already lost you).
The film jumps to Present Day (aka 1992) where cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is in jail drawing his critically acclaimed comic “Cool World”. His femme fatale, nymphomaniac character Holli Would pulls him into the comic book (this is really the plot, I’m not talking about a famous 80’s Music video). The next day Jack is released from prison.
Frank has since become a police officer in Cool World. His partner is a Spider (of course) named Nails and he dates a cartoon named Lonette who he can’t have sex with for reasons that will be explained later.
Holli pulls Jack back into Cool World and the two have sex leading to Holli turning from a cartoon into a person (Kim Basinger). The two escape Cool World in search of Vinnie Vegas. Frank goes after them. Holli is in search of a “Spike of Power”. No longer needing Jack, she abandons him.
Jack and Frank team up to find the spike. They discover Vinnie Vegas (who is really Doc Whiskers). Holli pushes Frank off a building, killing him, and steals the spike, causing the line between cartoon and real life to be severed. Jack takes the spike from her and returns it, trapping Holli and himself into Cool World forever.
While Nails mourns the loss of his partner and friend, Lonette reminds him that when a person is murdered by a cartoon, he becomes a cartoon himself. The two walk off happily ever after (and finally get to fuck).
Before I break down why I like this movie, I have to ask something. Frank has been in Cool World from 1945 til 1992, that’s over 45 years. If Lonette knew that if he was murdered by a cartoon Frank would become a cartoon, why didn’t she do that like… 44 years ago instead of going years and years never having sex with him (but wanting to)? Then again, that’s just one piece of the very disjointed and illogical puzzle called Cool World.
When I was a kid I loved Cool World. I assume that my parents showed me this film thinking it was going to be just like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Rewatching it now, I’m amazed by the incredibly explicit sexual content throughout the movie. I definitely liked the movie more then as opposed to now.
That being said, I still dig the movie. Everything that’s wrong with Cool World can be blamed on Paramount. Much like with Jaws 3-D, I mourn the kick ass movie Cool World could have been.
Director Ralph Bakshi started his career with slightly more adult cartoons like Fritz the Cat and Coonskin. His original vision of the movie was an animated Horror movie. The concept of it would have involved a cartoon and human having sex and conceiving a hybrid child who visits the real world to murder the father that abandoned her. After Paramount picked up the movie they wanted to drop the Horror angle and threatened to sue Bakshi if he didn’t complete it. Ralph Bakshi never made a feature film again.
Because of this the whole film feels disjointed. The animation aspect is gorgeous but as soon as any live-action interaction occurs it looks painfully Green-Screened. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except that you remember that Roger Rabbit was 5 years old at this time and blended Animation and Live Action seamlessly.
The issues, however, run much deeper than simply looking Green Screened. Many characters have little to no story or explanation but you can tell they were originally part of a much bigger picture. Even “Main” characters like Doc Whiskers only appear on film when it is convenient to the plot.
Regardless of all of its faults, the animated sequences are truly spectacular. Ralph Bakshi’s eye for insanity leads to some of the craziest looking cartoon characters ever. Just look at these things!
It’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve never seen it before, just don’t expect much. More so it’s worth re-watching if you haven’t seen it in years. It’s be an interesting experience to say the least.