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Film review: Cool World

If the ads for "Cool World" have you thinking this film is a perverse take on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," then it's a most accurate ad campaign.

Ralph Bakshi, hearkening back to his "Fritz the Cat" and "Heavy Traffic" days, has come up with what appears to be a deliberate take on "Roger Rabbit." There are even brief shots at Disney to reinforce the notion — a dancing hippo in a tutu formed by cigarette smoke, ghosts rising from their graves like a sequence from "Fantasia," etc.

But the most obvious target is "Roger Rabbit," with "Cool World's" main character being a promiscuous Jessica Rabbit named Holli Would (Kim Basinger). There's also a mutant infant meaner than Baby Herman (at one point he urinates on a policeman) and the plot concerns a live-action detective (Brad Pitt) who finds himself in a cartoon universe called "Cool World," a twisted version of Toon Town. In this case, toons are called doodles.

Actually, the idea has potential — take all the sweetness and charm of "Roger Rabbit" and puncture it in the manner of a Mad Magazine movie parody. But what Bakshi has come up with is merely a one-joke movie — and it's a dirty joke. In a perversion of "Pino-cchio's" desire to become a real boy, Holli is obsessed with becoming a real, human woman. But the only way she can is if a real man has sex with her cartoon self.

So, the first half of the film has Holli seducing the detective and then the earthly cartoonist who takes credit for "Cool World" (Gabriel Byrne). After achieving her goal, Holli spends the second half of the film as a live-action character, trying to release a spike that rests on top of a Las Vegas casino. If she does, she'll remain human, though releasing the spike will somehow wreck the universe. (When the spike is removed, hundreds of evil doodles are released.)

"Cool World" is filled with plenty of action, but sometimes there's so much going on that it makes the screen seem cluttered. Worse, the film has none of the artistic dimension of "Roger Rabbit," so the actions of live and cartoon players often don't match.

There are some funny bits, especially at the end when Byrne becomes a spoof of Superman, with a voice that sounds like Dudley Doright from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoons. But by then, it's too little too late.

Most of "Cool World" is merely depressing. And much of what's going on here seems more angry and nasty than inspired or funny.

Parents may be distressed that "Cool World" is rated PG-13. With its excessive violence, sex, vulgarity and profanity, this isn't a film I'd recommend to any children — even those over 13.