Directed by Chris Prynoski
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Mike Mignola has a lot going for him right now. Hellboy is not only a great comic, but the film managed to hold its own against the bigger Marvel and DC names. Now Mignola’s empire is stretching itself even further: It is breaking into the animation genre. Hellboy: Sword of Storms (review) was a great starter that could have been vastly improved if a different animation style or design had been used. But that is where The Amazing Screw-On Head starts the clean-up process.
America has two histories: one that is public knowledge and another, strange chronicle of events that is kept secret. To battle the nasties that plague President Lincoln’s time period, the President employs the services of a mechanized secret agent named Screw-On Head. Along with his trusty man-servant and dead dog, Head protects the world from ancient evil, otherworldly beings and the eccentric Emperor Zombie.
The Amazing Screw-On Head is the best animated project to come along in quite some time. Why it has yet to be picked up by Adult Swim, Sci-Fi or Comedy Central is beyond comprehension. The quick wit and ability to make the most of its short running time place it up in the ranks of Harvey Birdman. The audience is introduced to characters, back stories, love triangles, a complete plot and plenty of laughs within 22 minutes. That is a lot to cram in, and damn it worked.
Paul Giamatti (Head) and David Hyde Pierce (Zombie) are the perfect choices for their respective characters. Pierce’s performance never tries to turn Emperor Zombie into a standard cartoon villain and makes it clear this series is more in tune with a mature assembly. Giamatti is to be praised too. Screw-On Head retains an air of valiance at all times even when in the throws of emotional dilemmas or battling a giant demigod. If their collective talents could be retained for the actual series, Mignola could almost guarantee a hit.
The art style of The Amazing Screw-On Head holds true to Mike Mignola’s comics. The animation itself is not as smooth as the two other Hellboy cartoons, but seeing something closer to the original artwork makes up for this in spades. The bold shadows and heavy lines transmit more mood and atmosphere that many other simplistic animation styles lack … The Batman comes to mind. Where that series may have lots of thrills and slick animated movement, it still feels hollow whereas The Amazing Screw-On Head is bursting with life through its choppy design.
The special features of this disc are limited to three. First we’ll tackle the featurette: From Comic to Cartoon: Making The Amazing Screw-On Head. Like many special features on animated films, the audience is treated to extensive views of pencil tests, actors in the studio and the hard work put forth to translate an illustrated idea into a full-on animated feature. Though it may be informative, the featurette isn’t too entertaining. Animation junkies will get their fill, though, that’s for sure.
Stuck in the middle is the storyboard comparison. Only one scene was used for this special feature. During Emperor Zombie’s unleashing of the demigod and Screw’s rescue, we see the finished product on the bottom of the screen with an animatic next to it. Sitting on top of these two are the actual storyboards that change as the scene progresses. Pretty standard stuff, but people interested in the innerworkings of the animation business may get more out of it.
Last on the chopping block is the commentary with director Prynoski and writer/executive producer Bryan Fuller. Off the bat Prynoski is a fun guy who reminds this reviewer of Uncle Creepy. There’s talk about naked old lady butt, rearranged scenes, lots of shout-outs and pride.
Indeed, you gentlemen should be proud of this film. Now get out there and make your voices heard: We want The Amazing Screw-On Head: The Series!
Audio commentary with director Chris Prynoski and writer/executive producer Bryan Fuller
From Comic to Cartoon: Making The Amazing Screw-On Head featurette
5 out of 5
3 out of 5
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