16 July 2001 | dfranzen70
Cool World with soul
An endearing young nebbish named Stu (Brendan Fraser) is a cartoonist whose main creation is the personification (or, if you will, the simianization) of his libido. The ornery Monkeybone represents all of Stu's repressed feelings, you see. This is not uncommon among cartoonists or comic-book artists (or, for that matter, any artist); the product on the page is often the result of the demons within the artist's tortured soul. Anyway, Stu has a lovely girlfriend named Julie (Bridget Fonda), who just happens to be a doctor. Monkeybone's about to hit big, and Stu's friend/agent (David Foley) is trying his damnedest to merchandise the hell out of the uncontrollable penis with legs. (There's a not-so-subtle symbolism at work here, of course; Stu represses his emotions, including all sexual feelings, and releases them only in the form of Monkeybone on the page.) The day that deals for the commercialization of Monkeybone (reluctantly by Stu, of course) are made, tragedy strikes. A freak car accident leaves Stu in a coma, although somehow his girlfriend escapes unharmed. So there he is, lying in a hospital bed. Trust me, folks, there's comedy afoot here. We're only now getting to it. While clinically dead, Stu finds himself in Hell. Everyone down there knows him, because he's suffered through nightmares for many, many years (and they've served to inspire him in his artistry, too). In 1991, there was a movie called Cool World that covered some of the same ground. In that film, cartoonist Gabriel Byrne ran into all of his old creations - in this one, Stu finds that the denizens down there have been audience to his nightmares since they began, and they've been counting on him to churn out more. Keeps 'em alive, apparently. Oh, but just to complicate things, Julie the doc has found out what causes nightmares. Actually, I guess that actually makes things nice and simple, not more complex. What's worse, down in Hell (actually, an offshoot of Hell called "Downtown"), Monkeybone is quite the center of attention, and even has a standup act that humiliates the reserved and introverted Stu. The movie really consists of two main parts: Stu down in Hell (although not quite dead yet in real life), trying to find a way back up; and Stu back on terra firma, trying to Save The Day. What connects the two parts is that the nefarious Monkeybone, who's ostensibly been helping Stu to get an "exit pass" has actually schemed to return to the land of the living himself - in Stu's body. So that's where the hijinks really begin; at least, that was the plan. Once Monkeybone gets back up there, things seem to fall into a familiar plotline, which is a shame. There are many scenes down in the underworld that are positively funny, including Whoopi Goldberg as the Lord of the Dead. Oh, and some good bits with Grim Reaper recruits. And the sets! VERY good, fascinating stuff. If you're a fan of scenes, how things look - set design, set decoration, the whole bit - then this movie has oodles of eye candy. It's very well designed. And here's a bit of praise for someone I thought I'd never give it to: Chris Kattan. See, after Monkeybone returns to Earth in Stu's body, Stu has to find a way back up there himself. He's sent back in the body of a gymnast who was just killed in a car wreck (broken neck). The scenes of Stu waking up on the dissection table then being pursued by a mob of angry pathology doctors anxious to get his organs (which, of course, were supposed to be donated) are priceless, as is the bit of how Stu quickly copes with his broken-neck problem. There's a lot to look at here, and although the characters themselves are rather cardboard (and Fraser himself, while amiable, might be a little miscast), I think this was an overlooked movie. It has everything Cool World had back in 1991, except it also has (pardon the pun) a soul. This one made you like Stu and root for him, which is (of course) essential to any silly comedy. This one's just a silly comedy with some bite to it.