GUIDE DOG (2006) (***)

30 05 2008
Watch the Film!
Watch the Film!

This short is featured on the Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

GUIDE DOG is a sequel to prolific animator Bill Plympton’s 2004 Oscar-nominated short GUARD DOG. The animation legend brings more of his twisted flare to this installment, featuring his overly eager dog that loves to throw itself into its work. This time around the bouncing pooch wants to take a job as a seeing-eye dog, however, mishaps with birds, traffic and all around bad luck don’t bode well for a long future in the new profession.

Not as funny as GUARD DOG, which just barreled ahead with manic force, GUIDE DOG is tamer when it comes to energy, but features a darker and sadder tone. Outside of the bizarre first gag, the subsequent jokes aren’t very surprising. One sees where the rest of the film is going from the first gag and the following gags don’t have the punch that repetitive humor really needs. Plympton still does an excellent job of crafting the dog’s personality — sensitive and enthusiastic. The character seems a bit smarter this time around, however his single-mindedness in the original was part of what made the first film so funny. Some knowledge of the first film also makes the second funnier. Like most of Plympton’s work, the beautiful pencil drawings and exaggerated performances define his style, which is truly original and makes all his work worth seeing.

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SHUTEYE HOTEL (2007) (**)

30 05 2008
Watch a Clip!
Watch a Clip!

This short is featured on the Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

Many people will know Bill Plympton’s work from his early shorts that aired on MTV, like HOW TO KISS and YOUR FACE. His I MARRIED A STRANGE PERSON! is one of the great (and tragically underrated) animated features. Sadly, SHUTEYE HOTEL is not one of his best efforts. Guest after guest turns up dead at the sleazy Shuteye Hotel. A female detective decides to spend the night as bait to the mysterious killer. However, when the bait gets caught in its own trap, this stakeout could be the detectives last.

With his recent feature HAIR HIGH, Plympton seems to be going through his film noir and horror period. This short sets up the story well, but the pay off is massively anticlimactic. Lifting elements from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Plympton’s homage feels more like a retread. The one gag story never made me laugh and when it was over I was left with the “that’s it?” feeling. While a variance on his typical colored pencil style, his art mixes uncolored line drawings with dramatic flares of color very effectively. Like always, the acting is good with its smart and funny exaggeration. This all goes back to the good set-up leading to a pay-off that quickly lets the air out of the whole production.

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