Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Slipp Jimmy fri (Free Jimmy) (2006, Christopher Neilsen)

Chances are you haven't heard of Alex Goldsmith.  He is the brother-in-law of R. Crumb who lives in a room off Crumb's French villa.  He buys Crumb prints on eBay, takes them downstairs to be autographed, and posts them back on eBay for profit.  In 2006, Alex Goldsmith contacted "The Howard Stern Show" in an attempt to trade Crumb prints for a Sirius Radio subscription so he could remain a loyal listener from France.

It's this kinda thing that makes it difficult for me to stand behind an R. Crumb-influenced subculture.  On one hand, Crumb is an inarguably brilliant artist whose work can't be understood without a large dose of satire.  On the other hand, drawings of boobies are funny to the same people who tune in to "The Howard Stern Show".  Though I don't necessarily agree with, I can at least follow an argument for Fritz The Cat to be made into a motion picture.  Was much satire (the only true chance it has of "message") lost due to the film's preference for knee-jerk reactions to lewd animation?  Yes.  Did the film find a cult audience despite many Crumb aficionados giving it the cold shoulder?  Yes.  And much the same way, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to expect an "Ass Napkin Ned", "Jeff the Vomit Guy" or "Wendy the Retard" film coming from the Howard Stern camp.  Someone is paying for those Sirius accounts.

My guess is a fair portion of this audience would be waiting in line to see (R. Crumb influenced) Norwegian comic artist Christopher Nielsen's computer animated Free Jimmy if it ever got a proper U.S. theatrical release.  Written by Nielsen and re-written by Simon Pegg (?!) for the English-speaking audience, Free Jimmy reads like someone thought Willem Dafoe was real funny in The Boondock Saints, created a real ugly computer animated version of him and placed him amid grown-up, stoner "South Park" kids.

Billed as a dark comedy, everything is excessively ugly and no characters are likable.  This is not my issue with the film.  The film skewers vegans, hippies, stoners, straight-edgers, mobsters, animal liberators, dumb animals, hunters and circus entertainers.  This is not my issue with the film.  My issue is that the film is a directionless chase that wags the finger with no moral compass. 

The titular Jimmy is an old, abused, junkie circus elephant with thousands of dollars of heroin sewn into his ass.  The stoners are hired by head-stoner, Roy Arnie to kidnap Jimmy and steal the drugs from the Russian mafia.  The vegans are five animal-liberators essentially trying to do the same thing for their high.  Easy targets in an "adult" film with a teenage audience.  Couple this with Pegg's easiest paycheck-- spending four hours writing a first-draft of Guy Ritchie dialogue for the "Family Guy" set-- and any nuance and humor (that the fanboys swear is in the original) is lost in translation.

Worse yet, the film is dedicated to Neilsen's brother, rocker Joachim Neilsen, who died of a heroin overdose in 2000.  See, this poor drugged-up, abused elephant is a metaphor for the entertainer-- an artist who sacrifices his life only for his audience to demand more.  An artist driven to a life of drugs over which he has no control.  The artist is victim, and Jimmy is the only wretched character drawn with any empathy.  No culpability is demanded, because both the stoners and the sobers are the lampooned guilty parties.  In fact, both even eschew their dogmas in key moments of the film.  Is Neilsen suggesting a life of moderation?  Of only moderate drug-use?  After all, the pot-heads are the central figures and most relatable characters.

Free Jimmy is a film that paints from an absurdest palette, only to reject it with sentiments of regret and legacy.  Not only is this a moral quandary, but everything in the movie looks like a dog's chew-toy with the fluidity of the Statue of Liberty.  The result is an adolescent (meaning, somehow, less mature) Ice Age via Baba Booey.  Fritz The Cat for all the wrong reasons.  -- ½* / four stars

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