"What you need this holiday season — especially if you have kids — is a good, subversive movie. So turn on the startlingly funny, wonderfully clever Re-animated (8 p.m. Friday, Cartoon Network) and prepare to be delighted. This combination of live action and animation is Disney by way of The Simpsons, or everything Who Framed Roger Rabbit? should have been but wasn’t.
In Re-animated, Dominic Janes plays Jimmy Roberts, a Marilyn Muster-ordinary seventh-grader with an astronaut mom, an alien stepsister and a school principal-dad (hilariously played by comedian Bil Dwyer) who laughs himself silly watching cartoons and lives on sugary cereals.
On a class trip to Gollyworld, an amusement park created by the Walt Disney-like Milt Appleday (Fred Willard), Jimmy gets hit by a trolley and ends up in their hospital. There, doctors dressed as cartoon characters decide he needs an emergency brain transplant. The only brain available? The one that used to belong to Milt, who died 30 years ago and had his brain frozen.
Jimmy wakes up able to talk to Milt’s cartoon creations, including Golly Gopher, an egomaniacal critter who lost his status after Milt died and desperately wants it back, and his female likeness, Dolly. (Mickey and Minnie Mouse get their comeuppance here.)
Every good story needs a villain, and this one has a beaut in Matt Knudsen’s wickedly wonderful, over-the-top performance as Sonny, Milt’s misbegotten son. He wants Milt’s brain transplanted into his own head in hopes he’ll be imbued with his father’s creativity. Sonny hatches fiendish plots, which he recites out loud for all to hear, and before it’s over he’s even tied a girl to train tracks. Mwah-ha-ha!
Writers Adam Pava and Tim McKeon have created an extraordinary world where the Disney legend is playfully skewered and loveable goofball characters — both real and animated — abound. Director Bruce Hurwit aids their script by making the live action perfectly cartoon-like, starting with the opening shot in which the Roberts’ house looks two-dimensional. The colors, too, are almost explosively vivid, which makes the animation that much more striking.
Re-animated is Cartoon Network’s first original live-action animated movie. Good luck topping this.