Released: 1st August
Seen: 7th August
On September 6th of 1969, the first episode of the new Friz Freleng series aired on NBC, a series called Here Comes the Grump. Running for 17 episodes, the series followed a grumpy little wizard named Grump who wanted to make the entire kingdom sad all the time. The princess of the kingdom and her friend Terry would search for the magical key that would undo everything and, this would form the basis of the episodes that lead to a large number of assorted slapstick gags… I assume, I never even knew this series existed until I began some research to find out just why this movie existed and now I’m in actual romantic love with the cheesy theme tune for this series that I will be binging right after I spend a thousand or so words complaining about a bad adaptation of a TV series that everyone forgot.
Here Comes the Grump (or A Wizard’s Tale as it’s known in the US) takes the overall concept of the show and condenses it to a single 90 minute ‘film’. It begins with The Grin (Ian McShane), a wizard who just wants to make everyone happy using his magic and so he gives them all ‘the grin’ which makes them so absurdly happy that they accidentally set fire to the town… like you do. Naturally, this leads to shenanigans and The Grin’s girlfriend/wife/person-of-interest Mary (Emma Tate) ending up being transported to another world. Without his girl, The Grin turns into The Grump and sets about somehow causing more havoc than he caused when he was accidentally committing arson. Mary ends up having kids of her own and then a grandchild, Terry (Toby Kebbell) who runs the theme park Mary built to keep the memory of The Grin alive. For reasons of “SHUTUP”, Terry ends up somehow managing to transport himself into the world of The Grin, now The Grump, and ends up helping The Princess (Lily Collins) in her quest to save the kingdom and defeat The Grump. I know that sounded convoluted, that’s because it is. It also doesn’t matter because the plot’s so poorly thought out that you won’t care about what’s happening within maybe 20 minutes.
So here’s the fun thing, this film actually was straight to VOD in the states and you can definitely tell that this film was not intended for a cinematic release… and yet, I saw it in a cinema, because for some reason THIS gets a release at my local cinema but Midsommar and Papi Chulo get stuck in Sydney or film festivals. What I’m getting at is that the animation is bad. We’re not at full Flying the Nest levels of bad where a talented 3rd-year animation student could do better, but we’re close. Its garish designs fit right in the discount bin of any video store and none of the physical comedy works, no matter how many god awful sound effects they slide in to try and help sell it. I get that they’re trying to go for a Friz Freleng style of animation because if you’re going to try and be anyone in animation, trying to be one of the greats is a good place to start but they NEVER get his timing. They made his designs look nightmarish and there’s none of the charm. It’s a bunch of big-headed buffoons yelling and looking stupid and awful. The only thing about this that I can even forgive is the bad lip sync because this film was apparently dubbed but then we hit another problem.
Who is responsible for how awful this sounds? I demand that they show themselves so I may slap them. For a while I was sure that my cinema just turned the volume up disastrously loud but no, turns out the problem is that this film sounds like ass. The characters scream their bad dialogue at each other in voices so shrill and irritating that it causes serious pain. The sound mixing is so bad and cheesy, a version of this style might’ve worked back in the ’70s with hand-drawn cartoons but we didn’t know better back then. It’s a chore to listen to; I almost wanted to walk out because it was so irritatingly loud and obnoxious. There’s literally only one time when the audio of this film didn’t irritate me and that’s when they played the song 99 Luftballons during a scene where a bunch of sentient red balloons started fighting The Grump with angry tweets, then I was happy because that’s a really good song and I was enjoying the pun. Also yes, that scene description is completely accurate, did I mention this film was dumb? I could swear I mentioned that.
As much as I’d like to say every scene is as transcendently weird as “An army of living balloons fights a wizard using tweets that physically manifest themselves into weapons of war”, I can’t because that would imply the film was interesting and had jokes throughout its runtime. It doesn’t, it has slapstick that’s got the comedic timing of an actual stick and it has one-liners that are only funny if you’ve done at least one line of some form of addictive narcotic. It has some ideas of where jokes might go, a wacky waving inflatable tube man with magical depression could potentially provide a good joke but that would take effort. We know you can make jokes with constantly sad characters, Sadness from Inside Out is proof that you can do this but then we have to remember that Inside Out was written by writers and this movie was written by racoons with a particularly intense case of mange so you can see why it might be hard for them to handle things like jokes, dialogue, basic transitions and the concept of joy.
To be shocked that Here Comes the Grump is bad would be to lie, there was no other option for it other than to be bad. It has technically adequate animation and bright colours that might distract the stupidest of children but it won’t do anything for them mentally. Maybe it’ll help them sleep, but so does chloroform and at least that won’t mean you’ll have to have this inflicted upon you too. It’s bad, it’s boring, it’s bland and I look forward to forgetting I saw it within roughly 17 minutes of this review going live.