Friday, October 19, 2007

The Tune (1992, USA)

Another wonderfully entertaining little jewel of an animated film from Bill Plimpton, this time clocking in at little over an hour in length. Plympton uses the thin storyline as an opportunity to dance off into a variety of weird directions, all of which are well complimented by his distinctive, relatively simplistic drawing style. The first five minutes almost lead one to believe that Plympton makes a big mistake in following the unwritten law (of Disney and virtually every other major studios that have ever made feature length animated films) that states all animated films require musical interludes, but by the second fully realized song, both he and Maureen McElheron—who wrote and scored all the songs—find the right stride and deliver some really fun stuff.
The hero of The Tune is the dorky Del, a relatively talentless songwriter who needs a hit to become rich so that he can marry his sweet gal, Didi, the secretary of his nasty big-music-business boss, Mr. Mega. Given 47 minutes by his boss-from-hell to deliver a smash hit or be fired, Del gets lost on the drive to his appointment with Mr. Mega and ends up in the magical land of Flooby Nooby, where everyone and everything sings, because they all have it in their hearts. In Flooby Nooby, during his quest to find the ability in his heart, Del meets, amongst others, such inane characters as lovelorn country music singing fast food, a deliriously dancing surfer couple, a noseless jiggaboo cab driver belting the blues about his fickle love—a big Caucasian nose—and a murderous bellhop in a (literally) killer hotel. Great Stuff!
The surrealism of many scenes echoes and outdoes that even found in the most extreme of the early Betty Boop shorts, and the violence is as extreme (and in the end harmless) as that of the best of the early Tom and Jerry massacres, but the flavor and touch is 100% Plympton Modern. Likewise, with the one exception being the tune Del creates, the songs are lively, finger snapping ditties that make you move your feet as you giggle. OK, you might not buy the soundtrack, but you can heartily and easily enjoy them where they are for what they are. A couple of the longer, non-musical sections are recognizable as shorts already shown on MTV (at least to you out there who are old enough to have seen them), and even if they don’t really fit smoothly into the overall flow of The Tune, they are still of such amusing originality that it remains a pleasure to see them in any context.

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