Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sundance 2021 Review: CRYPTOZOO (2021)

The world of animation is typically thought of as a medium for children, yet there are some fantastic adult-oriented films out there, such as Isle of Dogs, Anomalisa, and I Lost My Body. Cryptozoo is a weird, trippy film that truly highlights some of the biggest flaws of the human race, being our greed and fear of the unknown, while also showing that some are just searching for the truth.

Cryptozoo follows Lauren, a woman who has dedicated her life to finding and protecting the strange, unbelievable creatures of the world, known as Cryptids. With some help, she opens up a sanctuary for these creatures in hopes of creating a utopia for them to live without fear of the outside world. Lauren’s goal is to educate humans about the existence of Cryptids, to create a world where they can all live in harmony. But as she soon discovers, this task may be much more difficult than she initially anticipated.

When this film started, I really wasn’t sold on the animation style. This is a fully hand-drawn film, which is a feat in and of itself, but it just felt very dated to me, which I think may have been the point, as the film is set in the 1960’s and gives off a Yellow Submarine vibe. As the film progressed, my issues with the style faded away and I was immersed into this wild tale of fantasy creatures. Writer and director Dash Shaw and animation director Jane Samborski took this bonkers idea and turned it into a psychedelic tour of the human condition. I was impressed with the bold decision to use all hand drawn animation, something that is rarely done these days, and I hope we start to see more of that in the future. It made this a very unique experience, one that everyone should check out and decide for themselves if it works or not.

This film starts off as one thing, yet in a single moment completely flips the script and takes us down this path I wasn’t expecting. It’s such a fascinating film, but also one that I’m still, even as I write this, contemplating how I actually feel about it. There’s a lot going on in this film, and at times I don’t quite think it all works. We’ve got a story of loss, we see a desperate search for power, there’s love, sadness, and betrayal. Shaw obviously had a big vision for this film, and he succeeded in most aspects.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible performance from Lake Bell who plays Lauren. I’ve been a fan of Lake for a very long time, and that admiration grew tenfold after her role as Poison Ivy in the DC animated series, Harley Quinn. Her ability to convey deep emotions with just her voice is wonderful, and she brought that talent to this role. You feel for Lauren throughout this whole film, wanting her to succeed, breaking down in the moments when things don’t go her way. She’s wonderful and you should check out Cryptozoo just for her, if not for anything else.


The Merc’s Score: 7.5/10

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