Cryptozoo: Worth the price of admission for some.
One of the things that makes me angry about animated films are not the films themselves, but people's perspectives of the film. Despite animation being around since the early 1900s and that there have been numerous animated films that handled adult subject matter, you still hear the saying "animated movies are for kids". While we are getting more adult animated films such as I Lost my Body, America: the Motion Picture and Anomalisa, the public perception of animation is still taking its time to change. Which brings us to the Cryptozoo, an adult animated film released this year in January 2021 by Magnolia Pictures.
Cryptozoo, a lesser known animated film, shows that animation is a broad genre that is able to tell complex stories in ways that live action might not be able to do. But is the film worth the price of admission? While animation fans might enjoy the presentation of the film, the mainstream audience will have a harder entry point into the film.
The story would envision a world where cryptids (mythical animals such as unicorns, gorgons and fauns) not only exist, but are exploited for different purposes. Lauren Gray (Lake Bell) is a cryptozoologist who is working to protect these creatures whilst trying to find the Bakku, a creature that is capable of eating dreams and nightmares to prevent the American government from using it against the counterculture movement. From the synopsis alone, it would sound like a trippy movie that you would expect from Ralph Bakshi in the 70s and 80s. Though oddly enough, the film shares a lot of story beats from the Jurassic Park film series. Lauren and Phoebe (Angeliki Papoulia), a gorgon to be wed, are trying to create a park that will act as a setting stone for cryptids to be normalized while militant hunter Nicolas (Thomas Jay Ryan) wants to weaponize them. While moderately predictable at points and continuing the 'Man should not interfere with nature' trope that we have seen countlessly before, the film still keeps the audience watching the film to the end.
The characters in this movie are best described as a mixed bag. Lauren, Phoebe and Gustav (Peter Stomare as a faun) have their motivations and are given defined character and personalities. Though other characters such as Joan (Grace Zabriskie), Nicolas and Amber (Louisa Krause) have some personality, their characters are not fully developed. It would have been interesting to see why Nicolas got into hunting and selling cryptids and why Amber releases the cryptids, but we are not given any motivation to why they do so.
The Animation and Cinematography
One of the largest things about the movie that most people would notice is the animation, which is digital 2D animation (tradigital animation). It is heavily reminiscent of the experimental animation that took place during the 1970s and 1980s, where while the animation is not as fluid as modern films, it has its own charm and personality. Using limited movement and line drawings, the film initially comes off as an animated storyboard or an early animation test, but the use of color and style makes it resemble an indie comic come to life. The best comparison that could be used for this film would be My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016). The cinematography in the film is also gorgeous as well. The transitions used between scenes are creative and eye-catching as the use of quick cuts, fades and more help keep the audience attentive. If anything, the film is a visual marvel to behold.
Cryptozoo is not for everyone. While the non-traditional 2D animation is gorgeous at times, most people will be understandably turned off from it. The story and lack of character development also prove to be detrimental to the film's overall quality. So, the question is; is it worthy of a watch? Well, if you are a fan of animation, then the answer is yes. If you are curious about it, yes. But if you are looking for something game changing, I would recommend a different animated film.
Cryptozoo can be found on YouTube, the Google Store, Amazon and Vudu.