Revisited: Cool World

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1945 Las Vegas, World War II veteran Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) returns to his mother. Riding on a motorcycle that he won in Italy during his service, Frank and his mother are struck by a drunk couple. Frank survives, but his mother dies. As an ambulance truck takes her away, Frank is transported to “Cool World”, an animated city of surrealistic landscapes and random cartoon violence. He was inadvertently teleported by Dr. Vincent Whiskers (Maurice LaMarche), a doctor who created a “spike” that was supposed to take him to the real world, but brought Frank to Cool World instead. Whiskers finds Frank useful enough to run things in the Cool World while he is gone to the real world.

Forty seven years later, Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne), a cartoonist, is detained after murdering a man he found in bed with his wife. He creates the highly acclaimed comic book series “Cool World”, which features the femme fatale Holli Would (Kim Basinger). On the night before his release, Holli summons Jack into the Cool World, and he sees Holli dance in the local dance club. After he sees her dance, Jack is teleported back to the real world. It turns out that Holli wants to enter the real world, but is forbidden to do so by Frank, who is now a police officer in the Cool World.

After he is released, Jack is transported to the Cool World once again and meets Holli and her goons, who have been encouraging his misled beliefs that he himself created the Cool World. In reality, Holli has simply been bringing him there, and Jack created his comic book series on what he’s seen there, which he initially believed were his own dreams. Meanwhile, Frank is about to go on a date with his longtime girlfriend Lonette (Candi Milo), when his partner Nails (Charlie Adler), a spider, tells him about Jack’s presence. Frank confronts Jack at the local Slash Club, confiscating his fountain pen, informing him that it’s a dangerous weapon in the Cool World. Frank then tells Jack the truth: the Cool World has existed long before he created the comic series and forewarns him that “noids”, humans from the real world, are not allowed to have sex with “doodles”, the cartoon inhabitants of the Cool World. He further advises Jack not to get involved with Holli before Jack returns to the real world.

Holli brings Jack back into the Cool World, where he is taken to Holli’s apartment. Holli and Jack have sex, transforming Holli into a human. While Frank attempts to mend his relationship with Lonette, he temporarily leaves detective duties to Nails. Nails receives a call from an informant named Sparks, who tells him that Jack and Holli have had sex and are leaving for the real world. Nails decides that he can do this on his own and goes off to stop Holli. Nails attempts to stop her from leaving the Cool World, but Holli uses Jack’s fountain pen to suck Nails in. Jack and Holli return to the real world, where Holli sings “Let’s Make Love” at a nightclub with Frank Sinatra, Jr.. Frank discovers that Nails is gone and decides to venture into the real world to pursue Jack and Holli. Meanwhile, Jack and Holli have started to flicker between human and doodle states. While contemplating their situation, Holli tells Jack about the “Spike of Power”, an artifact placed on the top of a Las Vegas casino by a doodle who crossed into the real world. When Jack displays skepticism about Holli and the idea, Holli abandons him to search for the spike on her own.

Frank meets up with Jack later on, explaining that the flickering both Jack and Holli have been experiencing is the disappearance of both worlds. They decide to team up and stop Holli from removing the spike. They get Jennifer (Michele Abrams), the daughter of Jack’s neighbor to drive them to the casino, and on the way, Frank explains that it was Doc Whiskers who crossed worlds and put the spike on the top of the hotel and if it were removed, it could potentially destroy both the real world and the Cool World.

Holli is escorted out of the casino for not spending any money, all the while asking about Vegas Vinnie, which is the alias of Doc Whiskers. When she spots the Doc, she tells him that she couldn’t find him, but when she starts to flicker between human and doodle state again, she begins to become suspicious and starts to see through Doc’s disguise and shakes him out of it, revealing his identity. Doc tries to convince Holli not to get the Spike of Power, but Holli becomes enraged and threatens Doc Whiskers with the fountain pen. When Frank, Jack, and Jennifer get to the destination, Frank pursues Holli on the casino, while Jack and Jennifer put Doc Whiskers back together after being popped by Holli’s pen. Frank chases after Holli throughout the hotel, while she’s still flickering from human to doodle state. While in doodle form, Holli pushes Frank off the building to his death. Holli finds and takes the Spike of Power, transforming her, Jack, and everyone in Vegas into doodles and opening a gateway between the two worlds, releasing numerous monstrous doodles. Transformed into a superhero doodle, Jack gets a hold of the spike. Holli tries to seduce it away from Jack, but instead he returns the Spike of Power to its place, trapping him, Holli and the rest of the doodles in Cool World.

Meanwhile, Nails escapes from Holli’s pen and both he and Doc Whiskers return Frank’s body to Cool World. Lonette discovers that Holli was a doodle when she killed Frank and explains when a noid is killed by a doodle, he is reborn in Cool World as a doodle. He is transformed into a doodle, allowing him to pursue his relationship with Lonette. Meanwhile, Jack and Holli are last seen together in the panels of a comic book. Jack (still a superhero doodle) is planning out how they will live, much to Holli’s dismay

REVIEW:

Growing up, I wanted to become a cartoonist. That was a dream that lasted fairly long, actually, until I found out my true talents were in other arts. Still, I can appreciate the strides that were made in animation during the time. Cool World may appear to be a rip off of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but rest assured that it is anything but.

What is this about?

In an effort to keep the cartoon world and real world apart, a Vegas cop works to ensure that humans and animated characters don’t bed one another. But when a comic-book artist is seduced by his own cartoon creation, mayhem descends on the city.

What did I like?

Character design. Jessica Rabbit was designed to no only be an exaggerated ideal of the 40s nightclub singer, but also the perfect male fantasy of a female form. Holli Would is in that same vein, if perhaps a bit more “realistic” in her proportions. Here’s something no one ever notices, though. There are plenty of other animated characters besides Holli that are quite impressive in their own right. The fluid designs of these dirty characters is what is impressive to me and the character of Lonnie is the true antithesis to Holli, being brunette, demure, and totally devoted to Brad Pitt’s character. She almost put me in the mind of Betty Boop in a way.

Animation. Ralph Bakshi has a distinct style that for sure. His characters are about as far from Disney and Warner Brothers as you can get, much like his sense of humor…and yet he did a very successful Saturday morning version of Mighty Mouse. Bakshi tends to keep his character away from the clean suburbs, opting instead for crime ridden back alleys and such, which often lends to some interesting character design, as well as an outlet for his trippy art style to take center stage.

Mix and match. An intriguing part of the story was how having sex with a cartoon makes them real. I’m sure more than a few guys and girls have fantasized about some animated character becoming real. Why else do we have cosplay? I couldn’t help but be dumbfounded with how this happened, though. Also, how Holli’s clothes seem to magically come to her, even though she had become human. This is just not a topic that has been explored, so I was fascinated out of curiosity.

What didn’t I like?

Plausibility. Usually, I’m the last one to scream about how believable something is in the movies, but I have to say something about this. First off, the green screen work was horrible. There are scenes in which the graphics look rudimentary, at best. When Pitt has his arm around his girl, I wasn’t buying it. As far as the plot goes, well, it is one thing for an entire town of cartoons to exist on the other side of Hollywood in the 40s, but for dark, violent cartoons to not try to escape for nearly 40 years I can’t believe. Surely, Holli can’t be the first to have wanted it this badly, can she?

Boys will be boys.  Brad Pitt and Gabriel Byrne are fairly young and early in their careers when this film came out. I believe Pitt hadn’t even received all the accolades from his two scenes in Thelma & Louise yet. Why do I bring this up? Well, both men have gone on to successful careers, but if you were to see this and say they would have done so back then I’m sure you’d get laughed into shame. Neither man does their greatest work in this picture. As a matter of fact, they both seem as if they don’t want to be there. Never a good sign!

Dangerous curves. Kim Bassinger was one of the most beautiful and desirable women on the planet when this was released. Holli Would is literally just her in animated form, but when she comes to life the figures don’t add up. Nothing against Basinger, but she doesn’t have the body for this role. Holli’s human side should have been played but someone with more to offer uptop and down below, so that the figures matched up. Instead, it appears as if she loses some of what makes her an appealing character, her curves, in the transformation.

Cool World, in this finished form, is not what was originally intended to be released in theaters. We were supposed to have a film noir horror/thriller type film instead of a “comedy” but secret meetings allowed for the changes. I can’t say if they were for the better, but I am curious to see what this was supposed to be. I think this film’s biggest flaw has nothing to with the film itself, but the fact that it came out a couple of years after Roger Rabbit and, because it did, the comparisons will never stop. There are tons of issues with this film, but I think it is still enjoyable, so give it a shot sometime.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

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