HEAVY METAL -- "Heavy Metal," at the ABC Drive-In, AMC Academy, Crofton Cinema, Embassy Circle, Laurel Drive-In, NTI Buckingham, NTI Landover, NTI White Flint, Roth's Montgomery, Roth's Tysons Corner, Showcase Fair City and Springfield Mall.
It's a pity boys under 17 won't be able to see "Heavy Metal" without adult escorts. The R rating of this fully animated movie would theoretically exclude the very audience for which it was intended.
Stocked to the rafters with violence, comic-book supernaturalism, cheapie scifi plots, stale drug jokes and confused sexual stereotyping, "Heavy Metal" is a compilation of loosely connected stories that combine the artistic integrity of television with the commerical gentility of AM radio.
The narrative tie-in, such as it is, revolves around the story of Grimaldi. A glowing green orb (symbolic of sex? nuclear power? box-office success?) has an irrisistible attraction for heroes and villains alike, but always ends up destroying these hell-bent to possess it, usually in a most unattractive, messy fashion.
The narrative tie-in, such as it is, revolves around the story of Grimaldi. A glowing green orb (symbolic of sex? nuclear power? box-office success?) has an irrisistible attraction for heroes and villians alike, but always ends up destroying those hell-bent to possess it, usually in a most unattractive, messy fashion.
When the green globe is not reducing these hapless characters to cosmic goo, they blithely perform that service for one another. The carnage is so thick and fast that by the third short segment, the body count is roughly a baker's dozen, give or take an alien organism.
Amid all the mayhem, girls endowed with fantastic tumesceneces through the wonders of animation technology wriggle out of their space-minis, beseech hairy hemen for sex, get tortured and slashed by a variety of prurient techniques, behave kindly toward animals and robots, and go away. As a bow to Reagan-era social consciousness, the heroines whose lives are worthy of perpetuation never open their mouths. Many of them, however, are such an embarrassment to their gender that the most humane viewer may find himself actually longing for their eventual encounter with a ray gun, or even a nice strappado.
There's a segment called "Harry Canyon" with a protagonist by the same name. The action takesk place in what's supposed to be New York, 2031, but it looks like New York, 1981, without heavy traffic. Canyon drives a cab, natch, and gets himself involved in various adventures, zapping his fares and bedding them down with the same philosophical resignation. He's one of the few characters provoking empathy, if only because of our shared disdain for the kooks and gooks that surround him.
Taarna, the blade-brandishing herione of the final, 27-minute segment, is almost as likable: She's beautiful without suffering the rampant Partonism inflicted upon her fellow cast-members, and she rides a cute, kozmik Big Bird in her quest for Good over Evil. But the sentence drags on too long and bloody (even though it's green blood) to hold one's interest in the foregone conclusion.
The scene most reflective of the movie's mental age is "Den," in which a bored, horny bopper's encounter with the green globe hurls him onto another planet where he not only develops spectacular biceps but is seduced by every quivering female in the cosmos. Between close encounters, he foils a prissy, lisping homosexual and an uppity broad named Ard, thus saving the planet from ruin. If this isn't the quintessential male high-school fantasy, it's at least an R-rated chimera for the morally major.
Producers Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel assembled more than a thousand artists to animate "Heavy Metal," which may explain why it's less artistically consistent than, say, "Bambi." Even Ralph Bakshi, whose recent animated movies have come under some degree of critical fire, knows enough to let the narrative and the animation co-exist as naturally and peacefully as possible. For all its dedication to lush color and movement, "Heavy Metal" too often seems thrown together, a mishmash of styles.
But the greatest failure of the movie is the criminally negligent use of the soundtrack. The 16 tracks consist of music easily on a par with movie albums such as "FM," Urban Cowboy" or even "Saturday Night Fever." Corralled by megamanagement Irving Azoff, the artist include certified weirdos Devo, Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult, metalurgists Sammy Hagar, Black Sabbath and (yes!) Grand Funk Railroad, asa well as more pure-pop performers like Stevie Nicks, Don Felder and Journey.
Felder's "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" is already receiving well-deserved airplay; Devo's reworking of Allen Toussaint's classic "Working in the Coal Mine" is surprisingly less mechanical and boring than one might expect, and although Donald Fagen's icy-plush "True Companion" seems slightly out of place among this hard-rocking collection, the other tunes are executed thoughtfully enough to give it credence.
Why, then, do so few of these songs grace the movie itself? Even when they do, it's only for four or five bars at best, and those are drowned out by overbearing sound effects or buried under the overly loud dialogue. One suspects that Reitman, who produced "National Lampoon's Animal House," "Meatballs" and "Stripes," and Mogel, who has published such thought-provoking magazines as "Heavy Metal," "National Lampoon," "Weight Watchers" and "Diners Club," were so busy indulging in teen-fantasy-mongering that they forgot what an integral role rock plays in that process.
If life were fair (or shopping-male theater managers consistant about looking the other way), high-schoolers would be allowed to see "Heavy Metal." lIt's dismally bad, but not remotely connected to reality, so it can't be that dangerous. In short, it won't cause blindness or hairy palms. And if the soundtrack gets a proper amount of recognition, it shouldn't damage anybody's hearing, either.