Published Aug 14, 2009Though the film pays off by the end, it takes a while to get into this animated feature about an unlikable man who learns to do good deeds when he mysteriously wakes up with a pair of wings on his back.
That curmudgeon is Angel, who rises each morning hurling his alarm clock at the bird chirping on his window sill. He also leers at women, sells guns and drinks way too much at a seedy watering hole. After 20 dour minutes, we're ready to walk out on him.
Then he grows wings. They have a life of their own and prevent him from, say, fondling a well-endowed, topless sunbather. Since this runs against his nature, Angel tries slicing the wings off his back, only to find them grown back like a moustache. Angel consults an unscrupulous back doctor but he only wants Angel's wings for fame and fortune.
Eventually Angel learns to love his wings, and the world around him. Perhaps he becomes too trusting of other mortals, some of whom crave his unusual gift and will do anything to get them. Regardless, the wings redeem Angel.
Bill Plympton is the dark genius of American animation, known for his wavering pencil animations where faces explode when they kiss and dogs are cruelly abused, all for the sake of a laugh. You either love his films or hate them. Those who love them will enjoy Idiots and Angels for its dark yet moving story about human greed and transformation. Notably, the film is told without dialogue and relies entirely on action. There are no cruel laughs here but something deeper.
Plympton's minimalism allows his morality tale to unfold economically and dramatically. This is a darker film than his previous ones, perhaps even gothic. Idiots and Angels falls short of being a masterpiece but its dark story and surreal style make it memorable. (Vagrant)