Sandow Birk’s inspired notion to adapt (with Marcus Sanders) Gustave Dore’s 19th-century illustrated version of “The Divine Comedy” to contempo America resulted in a startling, slackerized set of three books, but the animated film version of “Dante’s Inferno” is simply slack. Amusing and charming effect of turning Birk’s etched figures into rod puppets in an HD-lensed toy theater is undermined by director Sean Meredith’s awkward handling of his vocal cast and hip dialogue that reads funnier than it sounds. Much too long at even 76 minutes, pic’s current fest run will at best attract microdistribs with an eye toward DVD.
Awaking in a stupor in a big city dark alley, Dante (Dermot Mulroney) meets kind but firm guide Virgil (James Cromwell), who takes him on a descent through the circle of Hell. As the pair drop into the lower reaches, co-writers Paul Zaloom, Birk and Meredith send up and skewer a long list of celebs, pols and even popes for a rather repetitious message on the sins of hypocrisy and corruption.