Igor (2008)

Rated: PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language.
Length: 86 minutes
Grade: C+B-A-B=B
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $33 million (20 U.S., 10 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Chris McKenna (6 American Dad episodes) and others with no resume to speak of.
Directed by: Anthony Leondis (Lilo & Stitch 2)
Starring: The voices of John Cusack, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, Jay Leno, and Molly Shannon.

In a land of perpetual darkness, the citizens have turned to evil as an industry and hold an annual contest for the best evil invention. Scientists invent, and Igors pull the switches. But one Igor has invented an evil creature, the only problem being that she’s actually good rather than evil, and wants to be an actress. Meanwhile, the reigning champion evil scientist schemes to plagiarize his way to another victory through all sorts of, well, evil schemes.

Entertainment Value: C+
The premise here is wonderful and quite innovative. But the execution was really disappointing, probably due to the shallow experience base of the writers and director. It’s really too scary for little kids, and a lot of the jokes are (as often is the case with modern kids movies) aimed at adults while the kids are distracted by the pretty colors and zany action. The message is actually quite good, but the presentation of it was fairly low quality, despite the star-studded cast. Nonetheless, kids raised on Sponge Bob (against my advice) will probably love it.

Superficial Content: B-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C+, Language B, Illegality B
A vamp tries to seduce people and dresses buxomly. Pills and potions are used to do a variety of magic things. There are a few mild profanities. Theft and lying are constant devices. One character is said to be immortal, and he spends the entire movie trying to kill himself in various ways, unsuccessfully. There are some moderately scary scenes and a creepy looking monster who at one point does battle with other monsters. In one sequence, mildly scary old-time television images are shown.

Significant Content: A-
You would think that this movie couldn’t score so high on substantial content only because the first 90% of the film seems to be encouraging evil. However, in the end, the movie winds up being a sound endorsement of goodness and the importance of choosing it. Malaria has a caste system which is clearly denounced. Physical beauty is shown to be a ridiculous basis for evaluating people. Loyalty is praised. And one of the main messages is that society and its leaders can have a big influence on whether a culture aims in the direction of good or evil. Society shouldn’t try to make people be something other than what they really are, which only individual can determine for themsleves. “Even Igors can do big things too.”

Artistic/Thought Value: B
One of the things that I found most interesting here, aside from the rather disappointing animation, were the two significant ways in which this is not a Christian movie. On the one hand, the end message is essentially, “Choose good because it’s better to be good than evil.” Naturally, this fails to capture any of the Gospel message, even though it fits common grace. But the other unchristian element here is a little more buried. Igor is an outcast not because he has nothing the world wants, but because they are prejudiced against seeing that he has what they want. So even though Igor shows to be a great man in the end, despite his hunch, he still satisfies the world’s conditions of giving them what they want by way of cool inventions. Similarly, Eva seems really worthless, but also becomes valued in spite of her appearance by delivering something the world wants: first power and then acting talent. But one of the real bright spots here was the demonstration of how Igor, a man marginalized by his social status and by his physical deformity, has nonetheless internalized these value systems to such a degree that he can in return marginalize someone who is even lower on both scales than he: his own ugly creation Eva. There’s some pretty deep psychology behind why the oppressed in turn oppress others here.

Discussion Questions:
~What is so objectionable about a social system that assigns people to their occupational roles? Why is the two-layer caste system between inventors and Igors so morally obnoxious? Do you ever find yourself doing things to fit into a role that other people expect of you or have imposed on you (like the way the Igors all make their voices have a certain stereotypical slurred speech)?
~If Eva hadn’t had her evil bone activated, would she have won the evil contest? If she hadn’t won the evil contest, would her real talents ever have been recognized by the Malarians? So, did she win her place in society on her own terms or on their terms? What implications for ministry and evangelism might this have? Does the Bible teach us to win by winning or to win by losing? Why?
~Eva says, “I’d rather be a good nobody than a bad somebody.” What does this mean? What is it saying about the value of moral decency? Is this a Christian motto?
~How much influence can a society have on shaping it’s citizens’ notions of what is worth doing and what is worthless? Can you think of any mechanisms for brainwashing that exist in our culture? Do you think our culture is primarily teaching us to be good or teaching us to be bad? Was this movie intended as a social commentary?
~Do you see any examples of real redemption from evil in this movie, or were the characters who wound up good in the end sort of already good inside? Does anyone evil get redeemed to goodness?
~To what degree is the mayor like Satan? What is the cloud over this world which has been used to trick us into thinking that evil is actually the way to success? Can you think of particular examples where people think they need to do bad in order to succeed? At school? In business? In politics? In relationships?
~Are you surprised that Igor, who has been judged for his ugliness, in turn judges Eva for her ugliness? Can you think of examples, perhaps at school, where you’ve seen people who aren’t popular turn around and spurn those even lower on the social ladder than they?
Overall Grade: B
Not really so much for younger kids, but I think there is enough rich discussion to be had here with older (8-13) children, even though the movie itself isn’t particularly entertaining.

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