Irreverent, raunchy animated feature, overflowing with throwaway gags, warped show tunes, caricatured celebrities, genial good humor and bad puns, successfully explodes the Showtime series of three-minute cartoons into a 72-minute non-stop gagfest. Veteran “Simpsons” genius Mike Reiss, who created and wrote “Queer Duck,” maintains a lively pace that never grows frenetic, and director/animator Xeth Feinberg’s crude, flat, outrageous-looking but never stiff design creates a “Rocky & Bullwinkle”-like interplay between witty words and pleasingly abstract characters. Pic, which registers surprisingly vividly on the bigscreen, deserved a theatrical shot before its July 18 DVD release.
Filmmakers keep the plot simple to allow maximum room for the pop-culture allusions, rude wisecracks and wry asides that fly thick and fast. Aside from Queer Duck (voiced by Jim J. Bullock) and his usual entourage — his “insignificant other” Openly Gator (Kevin Michael Richardson), Oscar Wildcat (Maurice LaMarche) and Bi-Polar Bear (a Paul Lynde-channeling Billy West) — the movie throws in two new main characters: unlikely love interest Lola Buzzard (Jackie Hoffman), a raucously well-preserved septuagenarian diva, and villain Rev.Van der Gelding (Jeff Bennett), a right-wing talkshow horse.
As with “South Park” and its unexpectedly effective theatrical transition, the “Queer Duck” feature relies on musical numbers to juice up its small screen origins, though “Duck” plays faster and looser with its tuneful interludes, its characters wont to burst into song and dance for only a few choruses or even a couple of bars of such undeniable gems as “Have Sex With the Animals,” “I’m Still Not Dead,” “Smile, You Bastard, Smile” or the ’60s-style, Motown-y, soon-to-be classic “Jimmy Couldn’t Master Masturbation.”
Reiss’ hilarious lyrics are set to everything from pastiches of “YMCA” to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pinafore” (“I watched them sing and I watched them dance/And I watched all the bulges in the sailors’ pants”).
Lola Buzzard opens the door to her kitchen only to have the silverware and plates aggressively spring to life, a la “Beauty and the Beast,” in wonderfully, badly choreographed self-aggrandizement.
Unlike “South Park” with its gang of kid cutouts, “Duck” qualifies as a “funny animals” cartoon and much of the humor stems from species-appropriate gags (including a strung-up donkey who insists he’s not a pinata). Reiss and Feinberg take full advantage of the denotative and connotative richness of cartoon bestiaries.
Cheekily-drawn human celebrity caricatures like Conan O’Brien and promiscuous jokesmith Bruce Vilanch (who voice their own characters) or a sadsack Bob Dylan literally stand out as a breed apart, all the droller for their superfluity.
Though the limited-animation pic avoids the visual overkill and hyper-busyness that afflicts much CGI and dimensionally-minded cartoonery these days, it is still difficult to keep up with the sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle barrage of cartoon and movie quotations that casually whiz by.
The black-and-white penciled “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” pastiche is hard to miss, as is the romantic “Lady and the Tramp”-inspired single strand of spaghetti scene. Pic abounds in references to everything from “TeleTubbies” to Tex Avery’s “Happy Go Nutty” to Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”
Tech credits are intelligently primitive. Feinberg and Richard Codor’s unshaded, blocked-out character design unabashedly delights in pure two-dimensionality, while background artist Jon Ehrenberg’s large monochromatic blocks of color (Salmonella’s Restaurant awash in a coral hue) recall UPA abstraction or Maurice Noble’s Frenchified backdrops for late Pepe LePew cartoons.