That any studio would greenlight a $75 million comic fantasy essentially about a guy and his talking erection is newsworthy enough. That it was dumped into theaters without fanfare–and tanked on contact–is a real shame.
In this loose adaptation of Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark Town, Fraser stars as a successful cartoonist who falls into a coma after an accident and awakens (with his titular id-like simian creation) in a netherworld populated literally by the stuff of nightmares. Resembling Pee-wee’s Playhouse as envisioned by Hieronymus Bosch and Buster Keaton, the scattershot, often hilarious film is a triumph of hallucinatory production design, extraordinary physical comedy, and good old wishful thinking. For proof, check out the DVD’s increasingly frank and surprisingly cranky commentary by director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), whose contempt for executive producer Chris Columbus and nameless studio suits makes for compelling listening, especially when he second-guesses his own choices, defends the picture against the critics who savaged it, and complains that he had to make a “film by committee.” In the end, though, Selick–who even throws in sour-grapes comments about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon–can’t help but come off as something of a whiner.
The disc’s 11 extended or previously deleted scenes (containing transitions that clarify and significantly alter some plot points) go a long way toward suggesting that the movie could have been a lot more coherent. But perhaps Selick should just take pride in the fact that he managed to make Hollywood’s most expensive head movie ever.