Hell and Back Movie Review
Directed by Tom Gianas, Ross Shuman
Written by Tom Gianas, Zeb Wells, Hugh Sterbakov
Release Date: 2 October 2015
Running Time: 86 minutes
Editor’s Rating: 2 moderately tortured souls out of 4
Remy, Augie and Curt (Nick Swardson, TJ Miller, and Rob Riggle) are three best friends working at a run-down Coney-Island-style amusement park. Their boss is an absent-minded pot smoking loser with no redeeming qualities who’s running the place into the ground, and co-workers like the simultaneously promiscuous, octogenarian, and all-too-fake Madame Zonar aren’t helping the place’s image. But when Remy discovers an ancient tome in Zonar’s hut with a picture of the devil that somehow cries real tears, he starts an odd little shrine to Satan as a means to try and save the park somehow. This alone might be interesting enough to base a movie on: a book about the devil that actually weeps for some reason, why exactly Remy gets so enamored with Satanism in the space of two seconds, why exactly Madame Zonar is a slutty old fortuneteller… but instead, Curt gets sucked down a portal to Hell.
For a mint.
Don’t make blood oaths your pockets can’t cash.
So Augie and Remy travel down the portal after him, and wind up in hell, which is loaded with foul-mouthed demons voiced by some recognizable comedians, especially if you’re a fan of late-night comedy in the vein of Adult Swim. After all, the movie was animated by studio ShadowMachine, the guys behind the awesome Robot Chicken. Along the way, they encounter the Devil, voiced by Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk. They also team up with a half-demon, creatively named Deema, and expertly voiced by Mila Kunis. Things get really off the rails really fast, and the plot explodes in some ridiculously convoluted chaos that resolves itself in spite of its loose ends and dangling plot points that it never bothers to wrap up.
I really wanted to like this movie. Nick Swardson is awesome when I don’t have to see his extremely-punchable face, TJ Miller has a voice made for animation, as well as Riggle, and Odenkirk does a really good job with the Devil. And Mila Kunis? Well, she can make anything sound awesome.
The entire cast is full of talent and could have made this film a raunchy counterpart to films like Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas. But instead, a script that barely holds itself together and crude jokes that exist only to serve as “shock value” distract and fall flat on their faces more than they actually entertain. The voice actors are working the best they can with what they have, and the art direction and animation is spot-on and really fun to look at, but the story hobbles the entire production to a crawl, making the under 90-minute movie seem much longer than it should. Whenever the film finds some kind of flow, it shoots itself in the leg with some joke that makes no sense in the moment, or stops to try and gross the audience out, which never actually works. The only breaks in the main plot that are actually entertaining are the Robot Chicken-esque “Welcome to Hell” cutaways, but they’re few and far between.
At the end of it all, I believe this film deserves a redo. It was so fun to look at and listen to (in a sense) that I feel that in the hands of a capable writer, we could get the movie this film deserved to be the first time around. Alas, I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’d take a deal with the Devil to make it happen.
** I watched this film via a streaming service I pay for. I was not compensated for this review.**
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