Cool World is a 1992 American animated/live action fantasy film directed by Ralph Bakshi and starring Kim Basinger, Gabriel Byrnes and Brad Pitt. The film marked Bakshi's return to feature films after a 9 year hiatus.
The film is notable for having one of the most infamous cases of executive meddling in film history, with Bakshi wanting to do a R-rated horror film about a cartoonist having sex with his own creation and as a result, have a half-human and half-cartoon daughter who hates herself and sets out to kill him, but the film's producer Frank Mancuso Jr. objected to the film's original premise and Paramount wanted to cash in on the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so they essentially rewrote the original screenplay into a PG-13 rated knock-off of that film. Star Kim Basinger agreed with the producers to make the film more "family friendly" so she can show the film to sick children in hospitals.
The end result was a box office bomb, making $14,110,589 out of its $30 million budget, caused Bakshi to retire from making films, was reviewed negatively by critics and moviegoers, and derailed both Frank and Kim's careers. The film has gained a cult following in more recent years (more so for the soundtrack than the actual film).
In 1945 Las Vegas, World War 2 veteran Frank Harris returns to his mother. He rides on a motorcycle that he won during his service in Italy, Frank and his mother are soon struck by a drunk couple. Frank survives but his mother dies. As an ambulance takes her away, Frank is transported to Cool World, an animated city of surrealistic landscapes and random cartoon violence. He was inadvertently teleported by Dr. Vincent Whiskers, a doctor who had created a "spike" that was supposed to take him to the real world, but brought Frank to Cool World by mistake. Whiskers finds Frank useful enough to run things in the Cool World while he is gone to the real world.
47 years later, Jack Deebs, a cartoonist, is detained after murdering a man he found in bed with his wife. He creates the highly acclaimed comic book series Cool World, which features the femme fatale Holli Would. On the night before his release, Holli summons Jack into the Cool World, and he sees Holli dance in the local dance club. After he sees her dance, Jack is teleported back to the real world. It turns out that Holli wants to enter the real world, but is forbidden to do so by Frank, who is now a police officer in the Cool World.
After he is released, Jack is transported to the Cool World once again and meets Holli and her goons, who have been encouraging his misled beliefs that he himself created the Cool World. In reality, Holli has simply been bringing him there, and Jack created his comic book series on what he's seen there, which he initially believed were his own dreams. Meanwhile, Frank is about to go on a date with his longtime girlfriend Lonette, when his partner Nails, a spider, tells him about Jack's presence. Frank confronts Jack at the local Slash Club, confiscating his fountain pen, informing him that it's a dangerous weapon in the Cool World. Frank then tells Jack the truth: the Cool World has existed long before he created the comic series and forewarns him that "noids", real humans from the real world, are not allowed to have sex with "doodles", the cartoon inhabitants of the Cool World. He further advises Jack not to get involved with Holli before Jack returns to the real world.
Holli brings Jack back into the Cool World, where he is taken to Holli's apartment. Holli and Jack have sex, transforming Holli into a real human. While Frank attempts to mend his relationship with Lonette, he temporarily leaves detective duties to Nails. Nails receives a call from an informant named Sparks, who tells him that Jack and Holli have had sex and are leaving for the real world. Nails decides that he can do this on his own and goes off to stop Holli. Nails attempts to stop her from leaving the Cool World, but Holli uses Jack's fountain pen to suck Nails in. Jack and Holli return to the real world, where Holli sings "Let's Make Love" at a nightclub with Frank Sinatra, Jr.. Frank discovers that Nails is gone and decides to venture into the real world to pursue Jack and Holli. Meanwhile, Jack and Holli have started to flicker between real and doodle states. While contemplating their situation, Holli tells Jack about the "Spike of Power", an artifact placed on the top of a Las Vegas casino by a doodle who crossed into the real world. When Jack displays skepticism about Holli and the idea, Holli abandons him to search for the spike on her own.
Frank meets up with Jack later on, explaining that the flickering both Jack and Holli have been experiencing is the disappearance of both worlds. They decide to team up and stop Holli from removing the spike. They get Jennifer, the daughter of Jack's neighbor to drive them to the casino, and on the way, Frank explains that it was Doc Whiskers who crossed worlds and put the spike on the top of the hotel and if it were removed, it could potentially destroy both the real world and the Cool World.
Holli is escorted out of the casino for not spending any money, all the while asking about Vegas Vinnie, which is the alias of Doc Whiskers. When she spots the Doc, she tells him that she couldn't find him, but when she starts to flicker between real human and doodle state again, she begins to become suspicious and starts to see through Doc's disguise and shakes him out of it, revealing his identity. Doc tries to convince Holli not to get the Spike of Power, but Holli becomes enraged and threatens Doc Whiskers with the fountain pen. When Frank, Jack, and Jennifer get to the destination, Frank pursues Holli on the casino, while Jack and Jennifer put Doc Whiskers back together after being popped by Holli's pen. Frank chases after Holli throughout the hotel, while she's still flickering from real to doodle state. While in doodle form, Holli pushes Frank off the building to his death. Holli finds and takes the Spike of Power, transforming her, Jack, and everyone in Vegas into doodles and opening a gateway between the two worlds, releasing numerous monstrous doodles. Transformed into a superhero doodle, Jack gets a hold of the spike. Holli tries to seduce it away from Jack, but instead he returns the Spike of Power to its place, trapping him, Holli and the rest of the doodles in Cool World.
Meanwhile, Nails escapes from Holli's pen and both he and Doc Whiskers return Frank's body to Cool World. Lonette discovers that Holli was a doodle when she killed Frank and explains when a noid is killed by a doodle, he is reborn in Cool World as a doodle. He is transformed into a doodle, allowing him to pursue his relationship with Lonette. Meanwhile, Jack and Holli are last seen together in the panels of a comic book. Jack (still a superhero doodle) is planning out how they will live, much to Holli's dismay.
Why It Sucks
- The aforementioned executive meddling takes away a more promising story than the actual film had.
- Misleading title: Despite the movie titled Cool World, that world doesn’t look cool at all.
- While the animation itself is good, the combination of animation and live action is unconvincing.
- The story is full of plot holes.
- The film rips off GMW.
- Inconsistent tone, as the film often changes from being serious to comedic. For example, a touching scene of Frank's mom's death is soon followed up by a comedic slapstick sequence.
- Kim Basinger is miscast as Holli Would.
- Most of the characters are either bland, obnoxious, or even both.
- Voice acting that ranges from wooden to noisy.
- The animation is good, possibly some of Ralph Bakshi's better styles.
- The soundtrack is pretty good.
- The film's concept of animation and live action worlds colliding was an interesting idea, much like how it was done in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- Jack is a surprisingly likable character (despite how bland you can consider him).
- Lonette is a decent female character and has better chemistry with Frank, compared to Jack and Holli Would.
Cool World opened at sixth on the North American box office, with $5.5 million. Its lifetime gross was US$14.1 million, barely more than half its reported US$28 million budget.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 4% based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 3.4/10. The consensus reads: "Cool World throws a small handful of visual sparks, but they aren't enough to distract from the screenplay's thin characters and scattered plot."
- Brad Pitt and Drew Barrymore were Ralph Bakshi's original choices for the roles of Jack and Holli.
- At one point, Willem Dafoe was going to play Jack.
- TTSW can be seen dancing in one of the scenes of the movie.
- As a publicity stunt, Paramount Pictures put a huge cut-out of Holli Would on the D of the Hollywood sign. The studio donated $27,000 to the sign's maintenance fund, another $27,000 to the Rebuild L.A. fund (it was just after the L.A. riots), and paid for 2 park rangers to guard the sign 24 hours a day. The stunt angered local residents, who picketed and demanded that the cut-out be taken down.
- The character of Nails the Spider is borrowed from Bakshi's own Christmas in Tattertown character Sidney the Spider. Charlie Adler provides the voices for both characters.
- As of 2020, this is Ralph Bakshi's last theatrical film.
- Since the characters were created from scratch, the directors decided to parody popular Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters. Examples include the medium used for the rabbits, the old bald man, their own version of Geppetto and Pinocchio in a larger character's stomach, and Daffy Duck's face in a building.