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Something old. Something borrowed. Nothing good.

You know you're in dire straits when your 6-year-old says, "Is the movie almost over?" ... a half-hour before it ends.

First-time director Tony Leondis' Igor is a painful exercise in tone-deaf children's filmmaking. The jokes are stale, the pace bounces between frantic and lethargic, and the visual elements are a patchwork of borrowed ideas from better kids' flicks. Still, in this season of decidedly "adult" movies, it'll probably pull in $50 million from desperate parents looking for a 90-minute reprieve from their screaming kids.

The premise is solid enough. In the blighted land of Malaria, where the sun never shines, evil scientists fuel the economy by blackmailing the rest of the world with monstrous inventions. Each year, the kingdom holds an Evil Science Fair, where the threat of the year is chosen. When his cruel but incompetent master (John Cleese) blows himself up in the lab, Igor (John Cusack) sees his chance to enter his own evil invention and prove, once and for all, that hunchbacks can be geniuses too. Assisted by Scamper (Steve Buscemi), a suicidal but indestructible bunny, and Brain (Sean Hayes), a defective brain in a jar, Igor does the unthinkable; he creates life. Unfortunately, his gigantic Frankenstein monster turns out to be Eva (Jennifer Coolidge), an aspiring actress who wouldn't hurt a fly.

If you were hip to the concept until that last sentence, you're not alone. The monster-turned-thespian backbone of the story is so horribly from left field and so ill-considered that the film never recovers. (Uh ... James Lipton jokes? What 8-year-old kid watches Inside the Actors Studio?) Instead it throws one lame-ass pop culture joke at the screen after another while frantically counting down the clock with hyperactive shtick.

Yeah, there's some kidspeak moral about recognizing inner beauty and, of course, the timeless message that being good is better than being evil (Republicans take note), but Igor demonstrates its lead-footed approach to comedy by relying on "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" from Annie as its climactic punchline. Perhaps the film's biggest mistake, however, was in naming its female lead Eva, which only recalls this summer's brilliant and awe-inspiring Wall-E, a movie I found myself pining to rewatch.

From its jokes to its visuals, everything in the film feels borrowed from somewhere else. The characters and horror-film landscape vaguely resemble an overstuffed and garish riff on The Nightmare Before Christmas, but lacking any of Tim Burton's macabre and inventive charm. Even Igor's premise — according to Internet rumors — was pilfered from comedic fantasist Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.

Unfortunately, Igor represents the blinkered Hollywood notion that a serviceable premise, a lot of computer animation and a few star voice-overs equal a movie worth making. Despite the vocal cast's valiant effort to inject some life into the material, this brainless monstrosity is pretty much DOA.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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