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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 12.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Edison and Leo
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by Jay Seaver

"Would-be combination of Nick Park and Guy Maddin doesn't quite make it."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: For a movie about a great inventor, "Edison and Leo" is curiously lacking in spark. There are moments of quirky inspiration, but they're quickly followed by fairly uninspired bits of meanness, ultimately wasting some fine animation.

George T. Edison (voice of Powers Boothe) is a great inventor, but also a ravenous collector and a bit of a lech. As the film opens, he is hiring an Eastern adventurer to seek out a particular type of bamboo that he believes may have potential as light bulb filaments, but the man is more interested in a ceremonial knife in Edison's collection - while Edison has an eye for his wife. The caper will have dire consequences for Edison's wife and younger son Leo, and come home to roost ten years later when Toni (voice of Jacqueline Samuda) and her daughter Zella (voice of Carly Pope) return, even if Zella does have eyes for the now-grown Leo (voice of Gregory Smith).

There's a sort of anarchy to the opening reels of Edison and Leo that may not always be fun, in the strictest sense - it can go from something cute, like the Edisons saying their good-nights in Morse code, to nasty mutilation in no time at all - but at least tosses out new ideas at a decent clip. The dry delivery of the film in general and Powers Boothe as George in particular initially creates a darkly comic feel, and George starts out as one of the more intriguingly multifaceted characters in animation history. He's selfish, unable to resist his baser urges, and has a huge place in his heart for his wife and son.

Somewhere along the line, though, that drops off, and what was initially somewhat enjoyable craziness becomes noise, topped off by violence that isn't particularly exciting action or something that manages to be sickly funny. By the time the film reaches its big action finale, who cares who comes out on top? Most of the cast is jerks (even George is a less interesting character by then), and Zella and Leo haven't really made themselves interesting by then. Also, for a movie about an inventor in the 1800s, there's a distinct lack of nifty inventions showcased. Mostly, it's things created by that other Edison. There's a robot dog, but where's the giant robot with a Canada-specific theme?

While most films could be improved with giant robots, this movie needs one. Especially since there's no doubt in my mind that the animation crew could handle it; for a movie that must have been done on a fairly limited budget, it's got exceptionally well-done stop-motion animation and good effects work as well. The character designs are a nice blend of fanciful and grounded. The filmmakers do a fine job of peppering in some good bits, but not quite enough.

I wish "Edison and Leo" was a better movie; I've certainly found ones like it entertaining in the past and there are bits that show a ton of promise. The sort of comedy it's going for requires hitting a tiny target, though, and the filmmakers' aim goes awry far too soon.

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originally posted: 07/25/09 02:28:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/20/09 Zoey morbidly obese story, generic animation, what audience was this film for anyway? 1 stars
7/25/09 Isaac good movie 4 stars
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