Title: Cool World
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Writer: Michael Grais and Mark Victor
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Starring: Kim Basinger, Gabriel Byrne, Brad Pitt, and Charlie Adler
Release Date: July 10th, 1992
Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is a comic book artist who has just been released from prison. He’s doing pretty well in Las Vegas with his biggest hit, Cool World, a world like Las Vegas, where anything and everything happens. But things get turned upside down when he finds himself thrown inside Cool World, which is more real than he could ever imagine. And what’s even more real, is his long time crush and creation Holli Would (Kim Basinger), who puts the moves on him. However, Cool World detective and real life human Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) warns him not to pursue Holli Would. And soon, Deebs will find out that the warning might have been for a good reason.
OK, I know this one isn’t a comic book or even a superhero film. However, the story revolves mainly around a comic book artist/writer. Also, it did get the inevitable four shot comic book tie-in. But let’s be honest, the real reason why I’m reviewing it is because of this….
If you read any comics released back in the early nineties, than you inevitably have this image ingrained in the back of your mind (along with the Meteor Man poster). Whoever was in charge of the marketing here must have spent a shitload of cash to ensure that this was printed on every possible comic book issue.
Of course, the strategy didn’t work, as it proved to be a bomb both critically and commercially. And for very good reason.
For starters, let’s start off with the style. Like Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Dick Tracy, the style is just as important as substance. After all, this is a 2-D meets live action spectacle. Unfortunately, though, the style doesn’t pan out all too well.
More like "Hell World"
This is because it tries one too many styles and none of them work well. It’s golden age cartoons and nineties and noire and Marylin Monroe and industrial and H.R. Giger and Salvador Dalí and a few other things I can’t remember off the top of my head. Notice how I said “and” instead of “meets.” This is because the styles don’t blend together or even complement each other, as with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dick Tracy, or any other good movie that combines different styles. This one is more of a hedonistic vomit of everything under the sun, all put together badly.
It wouldn’t even be a problem if it was drawn and animated well. But aside from some of the backdrops and buildings, it’s far from visually impressive. Most of the animation is too simplistic in both drawing and coloring. Again, the style isn’t good, and every character seems like a generic cookie cutter from a Steamboat Mickey or Bettie Boop cartoon. And when you put the animated 2-D with the live action, the results are abominable. I know that not every film has the budget of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but this isn’t just bad compared to its contemporaries; Cool World is bad compared to even sixties Disney. The interactions often times show their hands going through the characters among many other flaws with the visuals and effects.
I'll beeeee gooooone. In a day or twoooooooooooo!!!
However, it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if there was a great story to it. After all, substance is more important than style, right? But Cool World seems to have failed on both ends. The start of the film actually shows a little promise. It starts off in the 1940s where a WWII vet gets into a motorcycle accident. But once he falls into Cool World and we flash forward into the nineties, it all goes downhill.
We essentially have three characters and their stories bound together as one plot. There is hard boiled detective Frank Harris, whose main goal is to ensure that doodles and noids (humans) don’t go fooling around together (otherwise the end of the world could happen). There’s Jack Deebs, who’s been release from prison after apparently murdering someone (which never gets mentioned in the film again), and gets transported into the smash hit comic he “created” called Cool World. And we have the seductive Holli Would, who charms Jack Deebs in order to break out of Cool World for her own villainous reasons.
While the plot in itself is bad, it’s not the worst plot in history. What makes it terrible, like most other bad films, is the writing. Which I blame equally, if not more, on the writers than the director. The dialog here is crass, crude, and badly needs to be redone. In fact, everything here is crass, coarse, and badly needs to be redone. The jokes here are horrible. Putting a honk noise or other cartoon SFX every five seconds doesn’t make it hilarious. Slapstick in and of itself isn’t funny, it’s the situations and set ups that make it funny. Unfortunately, this one has neither a good situation nor a set up in view. Also, if you’re thinking, “well, maybe the kids would at least like it…”, stop right there. This is not a kids’ film and is definitely intended for the adults. However, I don’t think there’s anything here that any adult would enjoy watching (unless you enjoy watching a cartoon character urinating on a bunch of cartoon cops, or a hustler threatening to knife a rabbit over a card game).
Movie Rule #1321: Lightning is the key conduit for all time/space/dimensional travel.
Of course, the acting doesn’t do much here either. And for good reason. An actor can only do a decent performance if they’re given something well written to work with. After all, as the old saying goes, “You can’t polish a turd.” But you know what actor really surprised me here? Kim Basinger. And by surprise, I mean surprised at how awful she was. If anything, Basinger would be perfect for Holli Would. After all, Basinger is essentially the Marilyn Monroe of the late eighties to mid-nineties (and a great actress to boot), but here she just comes off as an annoying brat.
So, is there anything cool about Cool World? Well, there’s the soundtrack. In and of itself it represents everything you know and love about the early nineties dance/electro/industrial scene. Unfortunately, they’re not put to the best use, as the songs abruptly start and stop in the film and are wedged into the scenes for no good reason. But you want to know what was actually the best part about the film?
Every single middle-aged woman's fantasy.
Yeah, he actually did a good job playing the hard edged detective Frank Harris. Not his best performance, but it was the only character here I actually cared for. It’s not hard to see why he rose to stardom with performances like this or in True Romance. Had the film just been about Frank Harris falling into Cool World, learning the ins and outs of the hellish city, and laying down the law, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it. But woulda, coulda, shoulda. All I’ll say that if I were you, I’d stay the hell away from this world.