Rock and Rule

Rock and Rule. Nelvana 1983.

Before watching the movie:

This movie has the rough edge to its animation that I normally associate with Don Bluth or Ralph Bakshi. I guess everybody that wasn’t Disney had this kind of look in the 80s, and The Black Cauldron didn’t quite escape at that.

Being an animated adventure centered around rock and roll and magic, this reminds me vaguely of Rock-a-Doodle, but by way of Cool World.

After watching the movie:

Hundreds of years after a nuclear war, mutated animals have formed their own society. Retired rock legend Mok has spent years researching a way to open an interdimensional portal in order to draw a demon into this world and harness its power for vengeance against a world that won’t love him enough, and all he needs is the right singer’s voice to sing the notes that will activate it. Omar’s rock band is going nowhere, but his girlfriend and backing singer Angel is the real talent in the group. Mok happens to be present at the band’s talent competition performance and recognizes her voice as the one that will complete his plan. When Angel won’t abandon the band for the offer of fame and glory touring with Mok, Mok kidnaps her and leaves the rest of the group thinking she did dump them. Mok plans to unleash his demon at a killer of a comeback concert, assured in the knowledge that while “one voice, one heart, one song” may have the power to stop him, “no one” could perform it.

Maybe this movie had a point once, but it lost it on the way to the screen. It feels like a whole bunch of concepts thrown at the wall without much effort made to unify them. The movie is 80s rock scene, it’s high fantasy, it’s cyberpunk. Mok’s brand is built on magic and illusion in an age where everyone is familiar with holograms. He’s a mad scientist, he’s a dark wizard, he’s evil Mick Jagger. The good guys have the power of being in the right place at the right time to do the right thing for some reason on their side.

There’s no particular reason the characters are anthropomorphized animals except for the postapocalyptic setting, but there’s no particular reason it has to be postapocalyptic except to justify the anthropomorphic characters, which most movies don’t bother justifying. Them being dog and cat people sets a less adult tone, but the story content is very adult. It’s not dark, it’s not gritty, it’s not serious, it’s not satirical, but it’s definitely not for children. It’s not much of anything in particular.

A story that revolves heavily on legendary and transcendental musicians should have some fantastic music to back up that story. And the music here is… fine. Some of the songs are even pretty good, and I wouldn’t mind hearing them on the radio in regular rotation. It’s just not the amazing thing the story says it is.

There’s so much here that should have been good. I enjoyed several of the pieces individually, but nothing added up to the cohesive whole I wanted it to be. None of the spark that it needed came through. It’s a movie that just exists.

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