Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Hell and Back: Orpheus Gets Rude, Crude, and Animated
is heavily unionized and the entertainment is all boy bands. Yes, welcome to
Hell. You will be hearing that a lot in Tom Gianis & Ross Shuman’s
absolutely not for kids stop-motion animated feature Hell and Back (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.
Augie, and Curt are three incredibly foul-mouthed losers who still work in
their town’s decrepit carnival. The entire place is safety hazard, including
its signature descent-into-hell ride. When Remy stumbles across an enchanted demonology
volume in the fortune teller’s quarters, he thinks its literally weeping portrait
of Satan might be the new attraction they need. Unfortunately, he convinces
Curt to pledge a foolish blood oath on it, which he has no intention of
honoring. Alarmed to see their friend suddenly swept into Hell, Remy and Augie
follow him into the vortex.
satisfy the demons’ union, the Devil agrees to sacrifice Curt in a grand
ceremony. It is all rather annoying for the Prince of Darkness. He would much
rather be putting the moves on Barb, the naughty angel, who periodically visits
as a messenger from upstairs. Obviously, the two slacker mortals need the help
of a specialist, so they team up with the half-human, half-demon Deema, to track
down her father Orpheus, who knows a thing or two about sneaking mortals out of
Hell. However, in the years since classical antiquity, the mythological figure
has become a boorish womanizing drunkard, so he and Remy get along like a house
humor of H&B is crude, lewd, and pretty
funny. By affording Orpheus a significant role, it is also far more literate
than you would expect. There are even some surprisingly witty barbs aimed at
unions, boy bands, public education, and general political correctness. It is
basically a scatological force for good, in the South Park tradition.
in Hell would Nick Swardson be considered a bigger star than Mila Kunis, so
maybe that explains why he gets top billing over her here. Nevertheless, he
voices Remy with all due snark and snide. Kunis is game enough as Deema, but
Susan Sarandon is the queen of all good sports singing a duet with Danny
McBride (as Barb and Orpheus) that is so raunchy it makes the songs from the South Park movie sound like “Some Day My
Prince Will Come” (what a shame it wasn't submitted for Oscar consideration).
The animation is not quite at Aardman or Laika
levels, but it definitely exceeds expectations. In fact, the environs of Hell
are rather suitably baroque. Even running a hair shy of ninety minutes, H&B starts to run out of steam, but
it still has more originality, energy, and attitude than the cliché-ridden Boxtrolls. All and all, it is most satisfyingly
subversive. Recommended for animation fans who can appreciate it cheerful
unruliness, Hell and Back releases
today (1/5) on DVD.
Labels: Animated films, DVD