Style has seldom pummeled substance as severely as in Cool World, a combination funhouse ride/acid trip that will prove an ordeal for most visitors in the form of trial by animation. Director Ralph Bakshi has let his imagination run wild with almost brutal vigor, resulting in a guerrilla-like assault virtually unchecked by any traditional rules of storytelling.

Style has seldom pummeled substance as severely as in Cool World, a combination funhouse ride/acid trip that will prove an ordeal for most visitors in the form of trial by animation. Director Ralph Bakshi has let his imagination run wild with almost brutal vigor, resulting in a guerrilla-like assault virtually unchecked by any traditional rules of storytelling.

Although comparisons have been made to Who Fram; Editor Roger Rabbit because of the live-action/animation mix, this more closely resembles Joe Dante’s Gremlins in its reliance on exploding the conventions of Warner Bros. cartoons.

The comic-book premise hinges on parallel worlds – the real world and a sphere of animated characters, known as Cool World, which has also been captured by cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne).

Pulling Deebs into the Cool World is curvaceous fantasy girl Holli Wood, a ‘doodle’ (i.e. cartoon) who dreams of becoming human by coupling with a flesh-and-blood male. The odd-character-out in the story is Frank Harris (Brad Pitt), a human top cop yanked into Cool World in the ’40s.

Kim Basinger, who doesn’t appear in the flesh until nearly an hour into the film, is one of the few actresses who could convincingly breathe life into Holli, a 36-18-36 bombshell in animated form seemingly pulled straight from the paintings of Frank Frazetta, whose art inspired Bakshi’s little-seen fantasy feature Fire and Ice.

Because the characters are so undeveloped, Cool World is a realm with precious little humor and zero pathos, to be admired only for its brilliant synthesis of live-action and animation, as well as the staggering creation of credible comic book sets around human actors.

Cool World

Production

Paramount. Director Ralph Bakshi; Producer Frank Mancuso Jr; Screenplay Michael Grais, Mark Victor; Camera John A. Alonzo; Editor Steve Mirkovich, Annamaria Szanto; Music Mark Isham;; Art Director Michael Corenblith

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Kim Basinger Gabriel Byrne Brad Pitt Michele Abrams Deirdre O'Connell Carrie Hamilton
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more