Too Many Mad Scientists, Not Enough Igors

The title of this post is an old saying around the Tor offices, originally coined by Anna Magee (a long-ago and much-loved member of the editorial staff) to reflect the structure of our editorial department, where most editorials assistants work for three or more editors. 

But in the world of Igor, every mad scientist has his (and yes, they’re all male) own Igor, or two, or three.  In this delightful new animated movie, one Igor (John Cusack) wants to be a mad scientist, but he’s doomed to Igor-hood by the hunch on his back. 

That hasn’t stopped Igor from using his brain to invent:  a mobile, one-armed brain-in-a-jar (Sean Hayes) and Scamper (Steve Buscemi), an immortal rabbit with a death wish.  And now, with the Evil Science Fair only a week away, Igor is eager to get to work on his finest creation to date:  a Frankenstein’s monster of his very own design.

Of course, Igors aren’t allowed to invent, so Igor labors, unappreciated and belittled, for a mad scientist (John Cleese), who is striving to invent—well, it really doesn’t matter what he’s trying to invent, because the poor guy blows himself up in the early part of the film, freeing Igor to pretend to the outside world that his master’s still alive so that he can finish his monster in time for the science fair.

Meanwhile, the mad scientist who has won the Evil Science Fair for the last dozen or so years is trying to steal a winning invention, with the help of his sexy girlfriend Jaclyn and her also-sexy friend Heidi (Jennifer Coolidge).  Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) seems to be channeling vintage Elton John in terms of eyewear and fashion.  His real ambition is to replace the current King of Malaria (Jay Leno), who looks like the mayor of Halloweentown from The Nightmare Before Christmas with a decidedly insectile slant. 

Igor succeeds in bringing his creation to life, but Eva (Molly Shannon) isn’t exactly evil . . . instead, thanks to a mishap in the brainwash facility, she wants to be an actor.  In musicals.  More precisely, she wants to do Annie.  

And then things get marvelously silly and exciting. 

This is an animated, G-rated film, so a lot of people are going to think it’s for young children.  But the “I want to be a star” motif is presented in a fairly sophisticated fashion, including a cameo by James Lipton, and a fair amount of the dialog will fly over the heads of most children under the age of 10.  On the other hand, my 12-yo was delighted with the nuances of the story and got all the jokes. 

However, as mentioned above, all the mad scientists are male, as are nearly all the Igors.  They’re also all Caucasian, albeit at the gray-skinned, walking-dead end of the range.  There are a few glimpses of people of color at the start of the climactic action sequence, representatives of various Earth nations, but none of them utter a word, all are terrified (which makes sense, given the plot, but not even one was defiantly afraid), and all are wearing “native costume.” 

It’s too bad that there isn’t more diversity throughout the film, since the movie’s message is, in essence, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” combined with “just because you’re born to one fate doesn’t mean you can’t aim for another.”

Still, Igor was fun to watch and the screenwriters managed to surprise me with an unexpected plot twist and a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. 


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