Strip away all of Cool World's gimmicks and constant cartoon chaos, and you'll be left with
not much. Like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), director Ralph Bakshi's antic 1992 adventure mixes live actors (Brad Pitt and Gabriel Byrne) with animated ones but unlike Robert Zemeckis' hugely entertaining romp through the land of falling anvils and oversized hammers, Cool World is flatter than half of its cast. The skimpy storyline revolves around an ambitious "Doodle" girl, Holli Would (Kim Basinger), who wants to escape the inky confines of Cool World and see what it's like to taste, touch, smell, and feel things in the real, "Noid" (humanoid) world. In order to do that, she seduces ex-con cartoonist Jack Deebs (Byrne), a famous comic book artist who thinks Holli is his creation. Confused and lonely, Jack finds it hard to resist Holli's curvaceous charms, despite repeated warnings from Det. Frank Harris (Pitt), the only other Noid in Cool World. Sucked into the cartoon land in 1945, when the first portal between the two worlds was created, Frank loves his adopted home and will do anything to protect it from Holli's schemes. Of course, it's never exactly clear what he's protecting Cool World from Michael Grais and Mark Victor's script is a little sketchy on exactly how Holli's plans will spell doom for the two-dimensional universe's inhabitants. Perhaps Bakshi and the writers were hoping audiences would be so enthralled by Cool World that they wouldn't notice plot holes like that. No such luck. A nonstop cacophony of violence and pandemonium, the movie is more exhausting than it is fascinating. And, frankly, the animation isn't all that impressive. Most of the Doodle characters look more like what we'd see in a TV cartoon than a big-budget movie (or even a half-decent comic book) they're flat, and they lack the kind of detail that made Roger Rabbit's Toons so lifelike. The live-action performances aren't particularly exciting, either. Pitt is suitably hard-boiled as Frank, but his character isn't much deeper than the cartoon world he inhabits. Byrne's Jack is pretty much a non-entity until the end of the picture, and Basinger is in full My Stepmother Is an Alien mode as Holli: breathy and vampy and about as threatening as one of Cool World's big-eyed animated bunnies. Unless you're looking to see what Roger Rabbit might have been in the hands of less-competent filmmakers, don't bother. One of Paramount's bare-bones catalog releases, the Cool World DVD offers a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), clear Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English and French 2.0 surround tracks are also available), English subtitles, and nothing else. Keep-case.