Directors: Tom Gianas & Ross Shuman
Cast: Nick Swarsden, Mila Kunis, Bob Odenkirk, TJ Miller, Rob Riggle, Susan Sarandon
Running Time: 86 minutes
Adult animation has come into its own over the last decade or so. With programmes such as SOUTH PARK and BOB AND MARGARET and more recently FAMILY GUY and AMERICAN DAD. Even THE SIMPSONS has developed into more of an adult based cartoon than when it began. ROBOT CHICKEN is another of the more recent offerings and features on Cartoon networks adult specific animated channel. Now the writers of ROBOT CHICKEN have ventured into feature films with 2015’s HELL AND BACK, though it may have been advisable to stick to their day job.
HELL AND BACK follows friends Remy (Swarsden), Augie (Miller) and Curt (Riggle), three crappy carnival workers. When Remy finds a book authored by Beelzebub himself he makes Curt take an oath on it. Within minutes the oath is broken and Curt is sucked into the bowels of Hell. Augie and Remy reluctantly decide to follow him in and try and rescue him from the Devil (Odenkirk). This is obviously not as straightforward as it sounds, the three are all set to be sacrificed so they team up with Deema (Kunis) to search for Orpheus (McBride), a sprit who is famed for saving mortal souls from the Devil.
HELL AND BACK IS funny, in parts. The biggest issue is that it tries too hard to be inappropriate and shocking in its humour. It flows from one extreme curse to another with not a huge amount in between. The writers Hugh Sterbokov and Zeb Wells who both worked on ROBOT CHICKEN and Tom Gianas who wrote TRIP TANK appear to thrive on this type of humour which works well within a 25-minute TV episode, but when it is extended to a 90-minute film it becomes repetitive, and quite frankly boring. Leaping from one sex filled in-your-face innuendo to the next ends up losing the audiences interest. Fans of similar humour such as Seth McFarlane or ROBOT CHICKEN will laugh, but the jokes need more variety and the script needs more development outside of the swearing.
The strongest point of the film is the stop motion animation which is executed perfectly. Think CORALINE crossed with SOUTH PARK. The performances are solid and the actors manage to bounce off each other and deliver the repetitive lines with timing and a deadpan style that suits the film. Unfortunately, this is not enough to make the scripting any less monotonous.
HELL AND BACK is mirth inducing, however the repetitive use of the same style of humor and a lack of script development outside of the jokes loses the audience. It should have been one Hell of a film, yet despite excellent animation HELL AND BACK falls short of it’s potential.
HELL AND BACK is released on DVD and Blu-ray January 5.