Frank Welker

Spawn (1997, Mark A.Z. Dippé), the director’s cut

Spawn is really bad.

It’s bad from the first frame, the first bad CGI vision of Hell. I’m not sure if it’s bad until the last frame, I didn’t bother with the end credits. But based on the music accompanying the start of the end credits… yes, yes, it’s bad until the final frame. Even if there’s a “Spawn Will Return in The Avengers” tag at the end. Even with such a tag, it’d be a bad frame. It’d probably be something promoting a John Leguizamo stand-up special or something. In fact, if Leguizamo didn’t at least get some kind of promotion thing built in… it’s even worse for him. And Spawn is very, very, very bad for John Leguizamo. If the movie weren’t so godawfully overcooked in post, he’d take the biggest hit from the film. Luckily for him, it’s so bad with all the CGI and whatnot and how the filmmakers employ it to hurry their narrative, you can’t even remember how Leguizamo never has a good moment despite the movie being on his platter.

Because Leguizamo works in Spawn. He’s in an absurdly big costume, he’s got really stupid lines; there’s not a single positive thing about Leguizamo’s role. It seems like they somehow convinced Leguizamo (or his agent) it was the Jack Nicholson part and somehow Leguizamo fell for it. Even on this obviously bargain basement—holy cow, it filmed in the United States of America and not the province of Ontario; I thought cinematographer Guillermo Navarro did a bad job of lighting Toronto, but no… he did a bad job lighting L.A. A really bad job. There are lots of really bad jobs done in Spawn. I started to make a list while watching it but pausing Spawn every thirty-four seconds got tedious fast.

Anyway; Leguizamo—all the stupid stuff the film asks of him, Leguizamo does it. With enthusiasm. He deserves a medal for his pointless efforts in this film.

Or at least an ending tag promoting some other project.

Because Leguizamo, who’s entirely unrecognizable in the makeup, is about the only person involved with Spawn anyone would have any interest in seeing in another project. Lead Michael Jai White, who’s better while in full makeup, which restricts his expression, than when he’s not in any makeup and just acting? Nah, no one wants to see more of him. Or D.B. Sweeney as White’s best friend who marries his fiancée (Theresa Randle) after White dies. White dies because his boss, CIA-ish boss Martin Sheen has a deal with literally demonic Leguizamo and killing White and sending him to Hell is part of the plan.

So five years later, White comes back. Why the time jump? To give Sweeney and Randle time to have gotten married and have a kid (Sydni Beaudoin in the film’s only sympathetic performance; you feel for Beaudoin, she doesn’t realize what a terrible movie she’s in and shouldn’t have to realize it, she’s just a kid). However, when demonically reincarnated White befriends homeless urchin Miko Hughes, Hughes gets none of that sympathy because he’s terrible. Not even after Hughes’s abusive father dies and Hughes is sad; Michael Papajohn plays the dad. He’s only of note because he can’t keep his eyes closed when he’s supposed to be dead. For a movie with so much CGI imagery related to eyes—White’s eyes are always farting green mist… I’m thinking of farting because there’s CGI farting from Leguizamo. But Papajohn’s eye twitches. Spawn’s the kind of movie where the actors can’t keep their eyes closed consistently, the director doesn’t care about it, and the editors can’t fix it. It’s the pits.

Other terrible things of note… Martin Sheen’s acting. You’d never believe he’d been nominated for any awards, much less acted before. He looks like a men’s hair dye spokesman and acts like one too. One who can’t act well. Randle’s bad too but you’re sympathetic because Randle gets to be male gazed throughout the film—Sheen’s going to rape her, just because; something to piss off both White and Sweeney. Bad girl Melinda Clarke—in what seems to be a plastic latex—gets male gazed worse but doesn’t have to be in the entire movie. Or be the damsel. Clarke’s gets male gazed in action scenes. Randle gets male gazed while she’s under threat of rape and mutilation. Cool movie.

Frank Welker’s hilariously bad as the voice of a devil. Like, so bad I thought it was just a computer filter, not they conned anyone to do this part for a credit.

Bad editing. Really bad editing. Todd Busch and Michael N. Knue do to the bad editing.

Graeme Revell’s score isn’t good at all but you stop hearing it after a while so it’s could be worse. More is worse with Spawn. The less the better.

Dippé’s a rather bad director. Especially when it comes to integrating CGI effects into scenes. For nine out of ten scenes, the cast doesn’t even seem to be aware they’re reacting to CGI effects. It’d be even worse if the movie weren’t just terrible.

Spawn is really bad. Of course it’s really bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé; screenplay by Alan B. McElroy, based on a story by McElroy and Dippé and the comic book by Todd McFarlane; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Todd Busch and Michael N. Knue; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Philip Harrison; costume designer, Daniel J. Lester; produced by Clint Goldman; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Michael Jai White (Al Simmons), John Leguizamo (Clown), Martin Sheen (Jason Wynn), Theresa Randle (Wanda Blake), Nicol Williamson (Cogliostro), D.B. Sweeney (Terry Fitzgerald), Melinda Clarke (Jessica Priest), Miko Hughes (Zack), Sydni Beaudoin (Cyan), Michael Papajohn (Zack’s Dad), and Frank Welker (The Devil Malebolgia).


Trail Mix-Up (1993, Barry Cook)

I think Trail Mix-Up is supposed to be zany, what with the inclusion of an adorable beaver and a cuddly bear in Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman’s trek through the wilderness.

It’s not very good, of course. Besides Droopy’s Jaws-related cameo and Jessica Rabbit showing up for a moment, there’s nothing memorable about it until the end. And, at the end, Roger Rabbit destroys the planet Earth… hopefully so there can be no more of these lame cartoons.

When looking for cartoons to ape, director Cook and his writers somehow miss the multiple outdoor-oriented Disney cartoons they could have referenced. Trail would’ve been much improved with an appearance from Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore.

It does benefit somewhat from Baby Herman actually being cute–he calls the beaver “doggy”–even if Roger’s as unlikable as always in his cartoon outings.

The animation’s competent, but lacks any substantial qualities.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Barry Cook; screenplay by Rob Minkoff, Cook, Mark Kausler and Patrick A. Ventura, based on characters created by Gary K. Wolf; edited by Victor Livingston; music by Bruce Broughton; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), April Winchell (Young Baby Herman / Mrs. Herman), Lou Hirsch (Adult Baby Herman), Corey Burton (Droopy Dog) and Frank Welker (Bear / Beaver).


Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990, Rob Minkoff and Frank Marshall)

Roller Coaster Rabbit is exceptionally overproduced. The animation is technically outstanding, just without any gags–Roger Rabbit makes a terrible cartoon protagonist because he’s an unlikable moron–but at the end it takes an odd turn towards the CG. There are some fire effects, there are a lot of spark effects, it’s as though Minkoff gave his traditional animators a break and let the tech guys handle the rest.

The paltry story involves Roger babysitting Baby Herman at a carnival. Baby Herman wants a balloon, which leads to a lot of trouble. Even though the initial gags aren’t funny, they’re more imaginative than the final one involving an endless roller coaster (hence the title). Four credited writers apparently couldn’t come up with a gag to break up the monotony.

Some of Minkoff’s direction is fantastic; while too infrequent, there’re a few outstanding shots.

And Charles Fleischer sounds bored as Roger.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Minkoff and Frank Marshall; screenplay by Bill Kopp, Kevin Harkey, Lynne Naylor and Patrick A. Ventura, based on characters created by Gary K. Wolf; edited by Chuck Williams; music by Bruce Broughton; produced by Donald W. Ernst; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), April Winchell (Young Baby Herman / Mrs. Herman), Lou Hirsch (Adult Baby Herman), Corey Burton (Droopy Dog) and Frank Welker (Bull).


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