Picture
Starring: Dermot Mulroney, James Cromwell
Writer(s): Sandow Birk, Sean Meredith, Paul Zaloom
Director: Sean Meredith

The Plot

Taken From: Amazon.com

Hell goes animated as apocalyptic graphic novel artwork and eerie Victorian toy theater converge in this subversively satiric update of a literary classic. Reinterpreted with the use of intricately hand-drawn puppets and stunning miniature sets, this bizarre travelogue narrated by Dante, a hard-living hoodie-clad twenty-something, will take you on a gritty, violent tour of hell that bears a disturbing resemblance to our own world. Featuring the dark, mood-drenched voice of Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac, My Best Friend's Wedding) as Dante, and the wizened pipes of James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential, Six Feet Under ) as his ghostly guide, Dante s Inferno is like nothing you ve ever experienced before.

The Review

I loves me some modern re-tellings. Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio pre-boring film career is one of my favorite films of all time…if my guy friends aren’t around to hear me say that. Dante’s Inferno is a modern re-telling of the “Inferno” section of Dante’s giant epic poem The Divine Comedy. Since it does not involve wrestling or Star Wars, I haven’t read it, but the term “epic poem” makes me think that…I’m still not going to read it. The movie, however, was definitely good enough.

Instead of using real actors or some crazy animation, the film is, save for two human actors in very bit parts, done using hand-drawn paper puppets manipulated with sticks and sometimes string. Dante is a down in the dumps loser who is led through the 8 circles of hell by the poet Virgil, and each circle is modernized to represent current life. You see McDonald’s signs, Quizno’s signs, used car lots, and other modern day places are represented in commentary-laced detail.

I loved the animation style immensely. It is so different, but at the same time, it captivated me. The mouth don’t generally move, but you appreciate just how much it took the people who created it to actually act out and do. Along with the puppets, you have hand-drawn backgrounds and even some really well-done models the puppets interact with. As a guy who is used to watching poorly done CGI or crazily Asian sweatshop made drawings, this type of animation floored me.

The story itself is something you get involved in, as it is Dante’s journey through hell and you follow him as he learns about what Hell is truly like and where he may end up, should he continue on his destructive path. With the story so interesting, you don’t get distracted by the animation and can just enjoy the package as a whole. Through Hell, Dante and his guide Virgil come across many of the luminaries from our species: Hitler, Jim Jones, and other such “celebrities” all cameo, atoning for their sins in a variety of ways.

Dermot Mulroney and James Cromwell (forever Louis’s dad from Revenge of the Nerds to me) are the voices of Dante and Virgil, respectively and they do a good job. Dante narrates the story, and Mulroney sounds like a sad sack, probably because they had made him watch The Wedding Date on repeat for a week straight before filming. I had a little issue with Mulroney’s voice acting though: when Dante was screaming, it felt subdued, like they were recording dialogue in a library and they couldn’t be too loud. Cromwell did excellent as Virgil, with a dry sarcastic wit to every sentence, sounding like he did not understand Dante’s “humanity”. Other voices are also strewn about, such as Andrew McCarthy, Martha Plimpton, and Scott Adsit, spicing up the roster.

The movie runs only 77 minutes, which is short enough to make sure the puppet gimmick doesn’t get old and long enough to be considered a good movie. However, beware this is a very liberal-minded film: the commentary is very anti-Bush and anti-Capitalism. However, if you can ignore it, you can enjoy the film. The humor in the film is also very miss: I didn’t really find it funny so much as I found it entertaining to watch. As a comedy, this film fails. However, if you are an animation nerd, it’s worth checking out to see something new presented. All in all, it’s definitely worth a watch, but maybe as a one-time thing.

  ADDED BONUS: Paul Zaloom, the head puppeteer/co-writer/voice actor played Beakman on Beakman’s World. That’s how awesome he is.

Final Verdict
B+

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