Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rock & Rule


  Simply put, this is one of the coolest animated movies I've ever seen, right up there with Wizards and Heavy Metal. It also happens to be one of the few animated movies that explains why all the characters are anthropomorphized (animal looking). It's set "after the war" so basically this movie is also a post-apocalyptic tale. On top of that, it's also a love (via rock n' roll) conquers all tale. Damn, can this get any better? It sure can. The animation is fantastic. This is classic Disney quality stuff. It could easily contend with any other animated movie of the day. I'd take one traditionally animated movie like this over 50 more modern CGI cartoon movies anyday.

  When all is said and done, Rock & Rule works so well not just because of it's amazing soundtrack, or it's great animation, it works so well because we like the characters. Small time rocker Omar and his band, consisting of his girlfriend Angel, and their two comic relief buddies are just super endearing. Omar and Angel have palpable onscreen chemistry. It's so easy to get wrapped up in their story and completely forget they're animated. I'd single out the voice work and say it's great (it is) but it's also so much more than that.  Everything just works so well together. The writing, the voice work, and the animation. It all breathes life into these great characters who might have otherwise slipped into cliche. They don't.

  Omar has big dreams, wants to be the biggest rock star ever. Bigger than Mok, who, aside from looking like a demonic blend of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger, happens to be an evil rock star tyrant who controls everything. I guess being super famous gives you a lot of power, and Mok is the poster boy for that phrase... "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Granted Mok is a great old school villain, evil to the bone and knows it, but... he's a rather 2 dimensional baddie when I felt like he could've been so much deeper. He's a rock star. There's no tiny part of him which remembers his idealistic youth playing out of garage bands and struggling to get a gig? No pure love for rock n' roll? I kept waiting for him to end up being a slightly tortured person, but he's just pure evil.

  However, back to Omar. He's sort of a selfish guy. Well meaning, but selfish. He wants it all, and is willing to sideline his friends to hog the spotlight. Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend isn't just his groupie. She wants it all too, and she's perfectly willing to take the spotlight from him whenever possible. Which is an interesting dynamic and it sets up the ending perfectly. These two have to learn how to share the spotlight, not constantly steal it from each other. You really do get the feeling though that Angel and Omar actually care about each other. Angel is given an opportunity to have "it all" if only she left her friends behind... she turns it down, over and over.

  This is also when the plot kicks in pretty much. See, Mok is so evil he wants to unleash a super-demon on the world. I'm not sure exactly why, I guess it's a big power-trip. But don't most megalomaniacal bad guys like to do stuff like this? Anyways, in order to open the portal so the demon can come through, he needs the a specific voice to sing a specific tune. See? The vocal vibrations are the key... and it just so happens he finds the exact voice he needs in Angel. So after she turns down his advances of money, fame, and power- he just kidnaps her prompting Omar and Co. to come to her rescue. It's a great little story, very uncomplicated, but so much fun.

  Rock & Rule also does a great job playing all of this straight. It's not a musical, but has musical scenes. Omar and his band has a gig at this seedy little place, and we're treated to a couple great songs. Instances like this pop up all over. It never gets Disney on us. Characters don't just spontaneously break into song, prompting gigantic choreographed musical sequences. Those would be very out of place here. Instead, context is key. Everytime the soundtrack takes center stage, it fits the context of the things happening in the plot at any given time.  Great stuff.

  Overall this movie is just... cool. It's a simple movie, but incredibly well made, and surprisingly endearing. Being a fan of the era, the genre, and the music, I can't believe I haven't seen this movie ages ago. It stands out as being far more coherent than Heavy Metal, and manages to infuse rock and roll with the basic 'good vs. evil' themes of Wizards, making it just as awesome if not more than both of those movies. Which is saying a LOT coming from me. I adore Heavy Metal. It's one of my all time favorite movies, period. Animated or not. So, even saying Rock & Rule is on par with it has guaranteed it a spot on my favorites list, which is a pretty hard list to get on to.

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