Thursday, August 4, 2011

Felix the Cat: The Movie - Part 2

Part 1 of Felix the Cat: The Movie.

I covered Part 1, so here's Part 2 of this wonderfully insane film known as Felix the Cat: the Movie. So far we've run into magic talking bodily secretions squirted out princessy tear ducts, fish with boobs, friendly swamp-traveling miners that like to talk about intelligent bubbles, and a kingdom that is just totally okay with their ruler disbanding the entire army. Will Part 2 be just as acid-tripping crazy as the first part?

The answer to that question is "Definitely yes", because we're heading into my favorite part. This part has a little bit of everything and is arguably the one part where the script writers temporarily got out of their drunken stupors and wrote something that makes some lick of sense.

Unfortunately, in Felix the Cat: The Movie's universe, the part where the movie starts to make sense is when Felix the Cat has to entertain a giant space lizard's circus while he shares a dorm room with some mice/lizard hybrids and gives stand-up comedy to aliens. This bears repeating. The part where the movie makes sense is at a giant space lizard's circus. It's not too late to bail.

But if you choose to stick around, it's time for...

Felix the Cat: The Movie Part 2!

So when we last left Felix the Cat and his magic bag of tricks, he had ended up in the Kingdom of Oriana, a strange, mystical world full of talking fish with lots of eyeballs and senile old prospectors that live in mud holes filled with carnivorous bubble plants. He was betrayed by said senile prospector because he shoved him in a bubble that quickly ate Felix. And this is where people who, if they haven't read Part 2, should be wondering "Wait, huh? What? WHAT?". Sorry guys, this feeling will never leave even if you did see the first part. It's one of those movies.

Right after that...whatever I just described happened to Felix, the movie answers the question that no one bothered to ask; whatever happened to The Professor and Poindexter anyways? Well, it turns out that they're in the Anairo Gold Mine now too. Never does the movie tell us how they managed to get down that giant mine shaft without The Professor shattering his replacement hip.

Not sure why Poindexter brought an ultrasound machine but who am I to judge?
And, like their previous scene, this scene consists of Poindexter answering all of The Professor's questions and doing all the work. Seriously, Poindexter. Why'd you bring him along? He's only going to be dead weight later on when this movie starts throwing insane crap at you. So far nothing The Professor has done so far has proven that he can be of any use to this expedition.
"Ooh, I must have that bag, I must have that-"
"Uh, Uncle, did you forget to take your medicine again?"
Poindexter later reveals to us a mind-breaking development. Anairo is Oriana backwards! Holy crap. But then this scene heads off into the deep end pretty quickly, like a lot of Felix the Cat: The Movie scenes like to do, when Poindexter says that Oriana is said to be a legendary kingdom that cryptozoologists think is in another dimension. Uh, Poindexter? Cryptozoologists aren't actual scientists, sort of like how astrology isn't a recognized branch of science. I really doubt you should bring up anything they say as proof of scientific evidence.
"We're through the looking glass here, people."
The Professor shows how little he cares about interdimensional travel by saying "but how will that help me get his bag?" Holy hell, Professor, there's another world that's now apparently exists and it's filled with untold scientific discoveries and all you care about is Felix's bag? Felix's bag barely even works half the time! Just grab something from Oriana, like maybe one of those sentient seahorses with the large mammalian glands, bring it to the next big scientist gathering, and then become rich beyond your wildest dreams. Why do you hate being successful, Professor? Why do you hate science?

Speak slower, Poindexter. The Professor forgot his hearing aid.
Anyways, The Professor's nephew is so excited about this prospect of exploring another world that he decides to be a little show off and transform his walking computer into some sort of land cruiser just to prove to his uncle as to who has the real brains. Luckily, The Professor is too senile to give a crap, but Poindexter shows off so much that the transformation sequence takes forever. I think part of it was the animators being just so proud of themselves for animating a sequence that actually had smooth, impressive animation compared to the rest of the film and just padded it out as long as they could.

Okay, this thing is pretty cool. Admit it.
So then, Professor and Poindexter enter Oriana in Poindexter's Geniusmobile, which looks a lot less impressive once it starts moving, and are now trailing Felix the Cat. Watch how little I care. I know I kind of rag on these two a lot, but really, they don't add any substance to the story and they just sort of take up space in a movie that should've had more scenes concentrating on making the end product more coherent. They're only there because they were in the 1950's cartoon, and that's a pretty poor reason to be in a movie.

Now that the sort of pointless characters had their pointless scene, we enter Progress City. And I hate to say it, but Progress City has some pretty amazing designs. This could be very well one of the coolest looking hellholes I've ever seen and one of the coolest looking evil circuses too. Admittingly, We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story and Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night beat it in the evil circus department, but it's still pretty sweet.
Progress City Fana-A-Tic Circus? Huh?
Seriously, look at these buildings. Look at the inhabitants. This was when me, as a little rugrat, wanted the movie to suddenly stop focusing on Felix and focus more on this crazy society that lives in the middle of nowhere. How did the monsterfolk of the Land of Zill settle in Progress City? Was this city always here and was then severely damaged during the Duke's takeover, or did they just recently settle there and assemble all those buildings as fast as they could? If Oriana says her kingdom had a prosperous year, how come she doesn't send any aid to this place and help some of the buildings gain actual wheelchair accessible ramps?

In short, Progress City belongs in a different movie but man is it strangely awesome and you look at this place wanting to learn more about it.

But even these settings can't prepare you for what comes next, because after Felix the Cat gets thrown into a cell, we meet the ringmaster of the circus and the real villain of this movie. I'd like you to meet Wack Lizardi. He will be filling this cartoon with win for the next thirty minutes or so.

"Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?"
At the risk of sounding like I have some sort of bias, this is my favorite character in this movie. It's kind of funny how he's one of the only characters that looks like he can fit in this crazy setting, and probably because he's got a crazy design himself. He's basically this scarred overweight middle-aged reptilianoid (and the only reason I can guess he's a reptile is because he's green. YOU try pegging a species on this guy) with a lisp that might have some of the only good voice acting in this movie, if only because Peter Neuman of Thundercats fame really hams it up to the fullest.

And to top this crazy sundae with an insane cherry, his circus whip doubles as a pet because it's actually alive. This is the one character (characters if the stick counts as its own person) from this movie that I wish ended up in other Felix the Cat installments, especially the ones with more of a budget. He would've been great in Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.

Also, Wack's circus whip is a little on the derpy side.
The first thing Wack Lizardi does in his introduction is play with a toy truck with the Zill logo on it and spill some ink that he lets his circus whip drink up, all while bragging about how awesome he is. Yeah, I don't know either, but it is a unique way to introduce a character. Sadly, this is all interrupted by Pim riding a cylinder.
Sweet merciful god, what happened to Pim's face!?
Wack's just as pleased about seeing Pim as we are, obviously letting us all know that the only reason Pim's still on the payroll is because of that damn union. That is when Wack delivers one of the best out-of-context lines ever.

"What in Zill have you got to be excited about? Did someone invent enlarging pills?"

Poor Wack doesn't know that, in this day and age, someone did invent enlarging pills. Problem is, they don't do what Wack thinks they do and they're really not something you should suggest Pim take. Think of his heart condition.
Or Wack does know about Viagra and is taunting Pim's sexual inadequacy.
Either way he's being a jerk.
What happens next is a scene that, while it isn't well animated, actually has some pretty decent character acting. Unlike Pearl who spazzed her way through the opening, Wack has some sort of rhyme and reason to the gestures he does. You really get a sense that the grizzled carny is just looking for a reason to either fire Pim or to ruthlessly feed him to the hideous swampmonsters that work for his disgusting circus.

Unfortunately, there's a pretty big problem; you can obviously tell that there are different animators handling this one scene because Wack will change in style depending on the shot. After a while I end up subconsciously playing a game of "Watch Wack's eye shape and wrinkle definition change" when I should be concentrating on the plot.

"Why the hell did I hire you again?"
But I'm getting off track. Anyways, long story short, Pim wants to impress Wack with Felix's magic bag of tricks but Wack isn't really sold on the idea on account Pim kind of sucks. Instead the overgrown lizard makes fun of Pim and the bearded old coot embarrasses himself in front of his boss. It's through Pim's failure that we learn that the magic bag of tricks can't work without Felix, therefore immediately making The Professor look like someone who wasted a large amount of time and money chasing a doomed project.

Pictured: Someone who was more competent in figuring out the Magic Bag
than The Professor. That's just depressing.
As you can imagine, Wack thinks that Pim is finally succumbing to Alzheimer's Disease with his talk of bags that do magic tricks, so he threatens him with the Flea Pit. No offense, Wack, but considering the living condition Pim's used to, that shouldn't even phase him.

There's some fun back-and-forthing between prospector and giant sentient space lizard, but Wack is firm with his decision, concluding with this line "Okay, so you're old, you don't know what you're doing, and this is an insult!" Ouch.

Wack; telling it like it is since 1988. it too late for the movie to be about Wack Lizardi instead? I've been quoting him a lot, but you have to remember that the first 20 or so minutes of this film involved Felix the Cat cracking some real groaners like "Those guys are real bubble brains!" and "Boy could you use a Big Mac!". I guess part of it is that I have a pretty low tolerance for heroic leads who won't shut the hell up, made possible by games like Bubsy and Sonic the Hedgehog, so the moment some sarcastic greedy jerk of a reptile crawls its way onscreen, I'm instantly delighted because my ears are being saved from the squeaky falsetto menace.

I have to wonder how those Cylinders don't set everything on fire in this place.
Course, Pim saves his own ass by saying the magic word: Money. Even though it's pretty obvious that Pim is just saying this as an effort to save himself, Wack sort of falls for it and asks for Pim to bring the cat to him. After all, he has time to kill, they don't get TV in Progress City, and if the cat fails at impressing him, at least Wack has dinner squared away. 

He debating whether he should just give up and eat Pim instead.
So after that scene is over, we get...Professor and Poindexter in a swamp oh come on! The movie finally had some plot points that were moving in a coherent direction and a more tangible threat than the Duke of Zill and we have to go back to these two?

Pictured: An accurate representation of Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride.
What happens next is a really, really pointless scene of Poindexter and The Professor in the swamps of Oriana narrowly avoiding getting eaten by a dragon-like monster that, even though they've never been in Oriana before, Poindexter and The Professor can immediately identify its scientific name. What makes this scene kind of confusing is that the monster shares the exact same colorations as Wack. Is it the animators trying to tell us some of the evolutionary history of Oriana, or was it just out of sheer laziness that these characters resemble one another?

My money's on the "laziness", personally.
How do they defeat Wack's slightly feral cousin? By using a shrink ray. Oh, of course. Yeah, not sure how or why Poindexter invented a working shrink ray on his vehicle, nor do I know the reason why they never used it on Felix in order to get his bag. Seriously, guys, a feeble old fart who has more beard than brains was able to outsmart Felix and yet apparently it's impossible for you two scientists. I'm ashamed in you both.

His big brother starred in Quest for Camelot.
And then, once Wack Jr. is shrunk down, it distracts them by blowing a bunch of red bubbles in the shape of hearts (yes, this does make no sense, thanks for pointing it out for me) so that they end up crashing their swamp vehicle and landing in some trees just so The Professor say a "hanging around" pun. Way to go, Professor, I can add "makes bad tree-related puns" to my list of reasons why you shouldn't be in this movie. This scene just adds nothing to the plot and all-around lingers on the screen for way too long.

Hahaha, it's funny because an old man hurt himself pursuing an impossible dream!
Luckily, the next scene more than makes up for it by having Felix the Cat be introduced to Wack, who acts like he knows he's the best character in this room. As you can probably guess, they don't exactly hit it off, mostly because Felix turns his magic bag into a sword and threatens to kill Wack if he isn't allowed to walk off scott free. Wow, Felix. I almost want to take back everything I've said about you. I say "almost" because that Big Mac line was just painful.

Wack is probably wondering why the hell everyone always goes for his throat.
Wack is pretty good-humored about the whole murder attempt and just laughs it off. Wack's chill like that. Since Felix's magic bag is deactivated the moment someone other than Felix touches it (which would make a sword pretty useless the more I think about it), Wack decides to take the magic bag away, lock it away where Felix can't get to it, and lay down the law.

"You better believe I'm more awesome than you, Felix."
If the annoying, bloodthirsty cat wants to eat and have a roof over his head, he has to work for him. And that includes performing in the circus. At this point I don't even care that we haven't heard one word about Princess Oriana since we got out of the swamp because I like it when the movie presents actual conflict besides eye-blinding cylinders.
Whoa, dude, does he have a collection of whips just hanging on his wall there?
Wack's badass!
By the way, while they have this talk, Pim is in the background going "Eh eh eh eh eh eh" while jumping up and down a cylinder. I have no idea why he does it or even why the animators bothered to add that into the scene, but it's pretty annoying, especially when you hear him do it while the other characters are talking.

Why are all the old people in this film so infirm?
Anyways, after Wack and Felix have their little heart-to-heart, Felix is once again thrown back into his cell and again we're subjected to Felix the Cat talking to himself. No, bad filmmakers! That's not what your audience wants to see!

But then, Felix hears something and decides to check it out. We find out that Felix's room is infested with circus performers. What kind of circus performers? Delicious ones, that's what!

The Wuzzles try make it on Broadway.
We're introduced to the Mizzards, who I swear are the most unfortunate animal mix in this cartoon ever. I've owned a lot of cats in my lifetime, and my cats would slaughter and eat their weight in lizards AND mice. A mice/lizard hybrid just sounds a lot like cutting out the middle man and also the most delectable thing a cat could eat.
And then Felix spits out their half-chewed remains on Wack Lizardi's doorstep.
But then we hear Wack talking and, instead of getting to know these strange creatures we were just introduced to, we cut to the actual circus, where he's going to open his giant circus performance with an ode to the Duke of Zill, all while his snout changes sizes thanks to the wonders of off-model animation. How is he going to honor the villain in this movie that's honestly less exciting than him? Through a musical number, of course!

"Remember folks, it's a two drink minimum!"
Now, before you get frightened and picture Wack Lizardi dancing around and singing about how great the Duke is (although I'd love to see that just because it'd be so hilarious), he's only the conductor to this giant band of imprisoned cats. I have to wonder how he keeps them from ganging up and eviscerating him onstage. I know they're chained up, but he's standing within arm's reach for quite a few of them.

Try as I might, I can't look away from Wack's weirdly shaped hair.
This is when we get one of the coolest songs in this movie; "Who Is The Boss", aka the villain's song. The song lyrics are nonsensical, the animation takes a serious nose dive during this part, and it really does make the Duke look anymore threatening (because, let's face it, it's Mysterio wearing elbow ribbons, he's NOT going to look threatening), but it somehow manages to be really catchy. This song has a miraculous ability to be awesome despite all the things working against it.

"Have your fun, as long as I LET you have fun!"
Basically the song is less about the Duke of Zill and more how he just has an iron grip on these poor mutated creatures that live in this swamp. (One of the lyrics is "We are content, because he says we are") The song is just endless praises on how awesome a leader the Duke is, and a lot of it is improvised by the monsters who have had their minds so warped by the Duke's conditioning that they feel bliss in their subservience. So we get lines like "Who never gathers moss, the Duke of Zill of course!". It's a weird as hell song and the more you dwell on it, the creepier it gets. Did the writers intend for all these sort of dark tones about distopia to sneak their way into this movie, or am I just overthinking it?

Oriana; the universe's greatest source of radioactive materials.
What kind of cracks me up about this song is that, somewhere in the middle of it, a ghostly image of Oriana face-palming appears completely out of nowhere, as if to say to the audience "Hey, remember that rotoscoped girl who disappeared early into the movie? She's here!". Sorry, film, it's going to take a lot more than that to make me want to see the princess again.

Oriana's reaction to the box office returns for this movie.
After that song is over, the movie decides that it hates us and then gives us some good old-fashioned padding, a very poor decision considering how quickly the more plot-heavy scenes go. We get to see the Mizzards (aka Meow Mix's upcoming cat food flavor) perform at the circus and they tap dance for three whole minutes. Three horrible, grueling, mind-numbing minutes. Instantly all my interest in these characters are thrown completely out the window because all they do is waste my time.

The Felix the Cat version of a Family Guy cutaway gag.
Is there any substance to their tap dancing? Do we learn anything new about these characters or about the plot in this sequence? No! We just see some weirdly played sight gags and my soul slowly crawling into a corner and dying. Not even Wack randomly rubbing his hands together like Dick Dastardly can save this scene.
"Mwahaha, my plan to lure the audience into a boredom-induced slumber is working!"
It's such a mind-blowingly boring scene that even cutting to Felix the Cat is an act of mercy. While Felix is stuck in a cage, he finds a bunch of posters covered with Princess Oriana's face, indicating to us, the audience, that maybe this circus has some place in the overarcing "Princess got kidnapped by the Duke" plot we conveniently lost focus of. Good for the movie to finally get itself back on track after three and a half minutes of nothing but tapdancing mutants. 

Felix's stare is kind of creeping me out here.
But Felix can't stare at his Oriana poster like some sort of pervert for very long, because his act's next. It is when Felix the Cat is in the ring that we learn that talking cats are apparently considered freakish beasts of mystical wonder to the Oriana residents. Uh, guys? Just take a good long look at Wack Lizardi. There's a strange, exotic mutant on stage and it sure isn't the character whose design hasn't changed since the 1930's.

Felix the Cat is supposed to perform with his bag, but unfortunately they don't toss it to him just yet so he sort of lingers on stage and does what he does worst; telling jokes. Yes, the movie is that cruel to give us nothing but Felix in a microphone giving us puns. Wack Lizardi, you idiot. Do you WANT to lose your customers?

And then Wack's circus became bankrupt, forcing all the circus workers to live out on the streets.
Luckily, Felix the Cat's stand-up comedy goes from painful to satisfying once we learn that people in the movie don't like Felix's jokes either. I guess it's kind of satisfying to see Felix's jokes get the reception they truly deserve, with some of the jokes even inducing a bezerk rage in some of the Progress City citizens.

Oh, and during the stand-up, Felix honest to god cracks a gay joke by saying "I haven't seen this much fruit salad since I was in California!". Hey, lay off, Felix. It's bad enough our state's funding is down the craphole; we don't need you to make it any worse.

Finally, they toss Felix the Cat his bag and what ensues is yet another entirely pointless scene that goes on for waaaay too long. Seriously, these circus acts could all be cut out and nothing would be lost. Also, a very good question comes up when Felix the Cat performs his magic tricks; why doesn't he use his shapeshifting artifact of mystical, powerful magic to escape? Turn into a jetpack or a rocket jet or something, Felix. It's not like Wack has any real power over you.

Come on, Felix, turn your bag into a Gundam and blow this hellhole!
So yeah, he does, in fact, turn his Magic Bag into a lot of things. A skateboard, a vacuum, a mountain of tires, all things he can use to pad out this scene's length as long as he possibly can. And the crowd finds this so hilarious that one of the audience members actually DIES laughing. Geez, that's kind of dark, movie.

And knowing Progress City, they just left the body floating in there for several days.
Finally, after some more padding through the use of Felix's bag (because everyone loves padding, right?), his show ends and he performs the classic happy Felix pose that found its way on this movie's VHS covers. Not even going to ask why he didn't bother to use his bag's cannon shape to kill Wack or something.

He smiles, but inside he knows that he'll never make as much money as Mickey Mouse.
Once the act's over, Wack Lizardi actually congratulates him, trying to cheer up Felix by saying that he's going to be imprisoned in his circus for a very long time. Ouch. Right after he delivers that kind of depressing compliment, the overweight lizard says what everyone is already thinking. "You're no good with jokes" he says, and then he demonstrates how much he hates Felix's stand-up comedy by spitting a loogie right in front of him. Thank you, Wack. You delivered it kind of harshly, but thank you.

He needs his own TV show, pronto.
Felix just shrugs off the fact that the universe doesn't find him funny and requests that he wants to see the Princess dance. There's a short scene where Wack reaffirms his authority as ringmaster before he jokes that the Princess is Felix's girlfriend and does a little hint hint nudge nudge gesture that says what he's immediately picturing in his brain.

I know I sound like I'm on Team Wack here, but its fun to see this character be more friendly and joking in a scene. He's still a sleazeball, he's still the villain, and he's still not animated that well, but he sure feels a lot more two-dimensional than the Duke right now with these little mood changes.

Come on, he's a carny. You know he's thinking of something dirty.
But since Wack says he's starting to like Felix, he agrees to let Felix the Cat watch him perform, no doubt forming the closest thing to a friendship this giant jerk of a lizard's ever had. Geez, forget the Princess, I want to see these two become best friends and then fight crime.

That stick's eyes are staring into my soul...
So, are we going to see the Princess perform? No, because here is a good time to stop Part 2.

Now, you might be asking, why the hell isn't the Duke of Zill showing up more? Whatever happened to Grumper and Pearl? (if you're asking that, then you give way more of a crap than I do) Will The Professor and Poindexter ever have a point in this plot? Why are we focusing so much on a fat lizard's circus? Patience, my gentle readers. This will all be answered soon. And yes, it does seem like an entirely different movie than what we just opened up to.

But at least now you know the correct answer to the question "Who is the boss?".

Turns out the circus's next performance is Part 3!