Cheatin’ (2015; Bill Plympton)
By Daniel Barnes
In a genre overwhelmingly dominated by major studios, nine-digit budgets, digital animation, wisecracking animals, A-list voice casts, and costly pop song licensing rights, animator Bill Plympton remains an iconoclast.
Cheatin’, which premiered at Slamdance 2014 but is only now trickling into theaters, is Plympton’s seventh feature film. It offers all of the Plympton hallmarks, most notably the hand-drawn animation. You can practically feel every single stroke of Plympton’s pencil. Other Plympton obsessions come in the grotesque character design and the focus on body mutilation and transmogrification.
The film is structured as a series of absurdist gags, many of them quite crude. However, it blends into a more traditional narrative as it develops. After a “meet-cute” on the bumper cars that is more horrifying than endearing, a young man and woman find love and intense physical chemistry together, but a scheming woman tears them apart.
Plympton blends elements from Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Being John Malkovich, and The Prestige into this story of sex, obsession, revenge and magic, and there are several awe-inspiring visual sequences. You certainly can’t fault Plympton for ambition. If only the jokes were a little stronger!