In the darkly clouded land of Malaria, an evil scientist’s henchman named Igor (John Cusack) aspires to escape his subservient societal position to become a revered mad genius. Igor, meanwhile, wants mainly to steal from the animated films of Tim Burton, whose gothic setting and exaggerated contours are shoddily imitated throughout this atonal, perfunctory fable. When his incompetent employer accidentally kills himself, Igor seizes the opportunity to finish work on his female Frankenstein monster, which he hopes to enter into the annual Evil Science Fair routinely won—through the theft of others’ ideas—by power-mad Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard). Rather than a rampaging creature, however, the hunchback’s creation, Eva (Molly Shannon), turns out to be a gentle soul, and is then transformed into an eager aspiring actress after Clockwork Orange-ish Ludivigo treatment designed to make her a murderer inadvertently exposes her to James Lipton’s blather about A Streetcar Named Desire.
Director Anthony Leondis peppers his tale with a host of leaden cinematic references children will almost surely miss, which is just as well since virtually every film-related gag directed at adults feels like a pitiful attempt at knowing cleverness. Igor teaches people that anything is possible, that appearances don’t matter, and that joy is better than sorrow, but serviceable vocal performances and a zippy pace can’t overshadow the limp dramatization of these life lessons or the severe unevenness of the animation, which at times is vibrant and elaborately eerie, and at others is so stiff, inexpressive and flat that it barely surpasses the quality of your average direct-to-video Barbie eyesore. Whether comparing it to the output of Pixar and DreamWorks or judging it on its own lesser terms, Igor feels chintzy and imitative, with kids unlikely to be seriously captivated by its bland hero and viewers over the age of five ultimately apt to relate only to Scamper (Steve Buscemi), an immortal rabbit desperate to commit suicide.