Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rock & Rule (1983)

I was born in 1983 and it was a pretty good year for entertainment. The A-Team kicked tons of ass, He-Man and Skeletor came to animated life, the original Star Wars trilogy came to a close, Chevy Chase went to Wally World, we all learned what fraggles were, and Cujo made people much more leery of large dogs.

Ain't that always how it goes? Get a little rabies and suddenly you're the bad guy.

The point is, it was good year to be born into. Today's movie also came out that year too Hell, it literally came out the day after I was born, meaning it really is about as old as I am. Not surprisingly, this was a movie I was well acquainted with a child too. But, like many movies from my youth, it wasn't really made for my age group. This movie was in the vein of films like Heavy Metal and it shows easily. Plenty of adult humour and references to drugs and sex. Again, I had pretty damn cool parents. Still do, really. Mom's gotten a bit squeamish with age, but it is what it is. Directed by Clive A. Smith, Rock & Rule (or Ring of Power as it's known everywhere else) actually began life as sort of spin-off of an animated short called The Devil and Daniel Mouse. In it, the literal devil tempts a female mouse musician. It's actually a pretty good short and I'd say you should check it out.

Trippy surreal animation about a tortured mouse making a deal with the devil...for kids!
For the full length film, they clearly took basic ideas from the short and reworked them, while also adding in a really jawsome soundtrack featuring Cheap Trick, Deborah Harry, Lou Reed, and even Earth, Wind, & Fire! So, let's take a trip that doesn't require drugs into this strange post-apocalyptic story about rock music and trusting the wrong people. Just don't sign on any dotted lines.

Trust me on this.
So, before we get into the film itself, let's lay out some general details. It's quite a bit into the future. The general implication is that humanity died out due to nuclear war and that cat, dogs, mice, rats, and the like evolved into humanoid forms to replace us. As such, all of our characters are decidedly not human. The text crawl at the opening informs us about Mok, basically the lovechild of the Goblin King and Lou Reed, who is this famous legendary rocker that retired. He's researching into some dark juju and he needs a very special voice.

He just might have to drug some people to find it.
We then see the heroes of our tale, a band led by the surly smartass Omar that also includes his girlfriend Angel and buddies Dizzy and Stretch. Angel and Omar are having some friction because she wants his assurance that they'll play her song in the set tonight, to which he begrudgingly relents and agrees to halfheartedly. Meanwhile, Stretch is busy playing an arcade game while this is happening and...well, I don't want to point any fingers but...I'm fairly certain Stretch is already on something.

Call it a hunch.
This is cool if you're a Cheap Trick fan, as the band's music is literally Cheap Trick. Hell, the band itself is Cheap Trick in general, just with Deborah Harry on keyboards. They kick out a great rendition of "Born to Raise Hell" and I love it even now. It's a great sequence and there's even a callback to The Devil and Daniel Mouse as their sole fangirl has a very familiar hairstyle.

Or maybe I'm wrong and that's just a really popular hairstyle among mutant mouse women.
The emcee cuts their performance short though, resulting in a threat from Omar to allow them to continue. But Angel insists Omar keep his promise, which he attempts to ignore as they start playing again. Cue Mok showing up to see our heroes performing in Ohmtown at said local club. He's not interested at first but when Angel commandeers the performance to play her song, it upsets Omar and captivates Mok. And his blinky ring informs him that Angel is the voice he's been looking for, which cannot lead anywhere good.

Seriously, you should not trust a guy who looks like he's going to go steal a baby to hide in the middle of his labyrinth.
In the aftermath, Angel tracks down Omar so they can talk things out, which results in make-up sex. I'm not kidding. One of Mok's assistants (who are all identical brothers) delivers an invitation to his home to them in the middle of said sex. So, of course, the band all goes to the creepy aging rock star's home and he doses Omar and Stretch with drugs while he attempts to seduce Angel. Dizzy tries to find her and basically keep bad things from unfolding...but he's woefully unequipped to deal with the much larger brothers who easily manhandle him and his doped up friends. They're tossed in Omar's car, which is then sent careening down the hill, and Mok's house reveals a big airship which he uses to escape with the now unconscious (because drugs) Angel. The boys crash into a fountain in the middle of Ohmtown and now are left in a tough spot with Angel being taken and Omar's car being in pieces.

But let's not focus on the negative. Let's instead focus on my desire to own Dizzy's jacket. I need to get better at sewing.
They steal the local asshole cop's car and head off to find Angel and Mok in Nuke York, but border patrol arrests them faster than a group of teenage Wisconsinites would get nabbed for trying to cross the border back into the U.S. with that sweet Canadian nectar. Angel on the other hand gets to take a break from being a prisoner when the brothers' sister sneaks into her room and gets her to come out clubbing with her. Along the way she hears Mok's plan to summon a large demon thing and his computer informing him that the beast can be sent back by "one voice, one heart, one song", but there is "no one". Interesting.

"IT'S NOT DAT INTERESTIN'!"
Yikes, alright, whatever you say. Anywho, Dizzy's aunt bails the boys out of jail nad helps them learn of Cindy, said sister of the large henchmen Mok employs. They learn she's got a very particular tattoo on her ass and luckily she wears short enough skirts that it can be readily visible. They also learn her favourite hangout is Club 666 and they head there to find her. Things heat up when Cindy's brothers and Mok show up, which results in short chase and Omar witnessing Angel and Mok making out, which results in him becoming visibly upset and hurt. It not really her though, rather being a woman called What's Her Face who is an expert at impersonating others.

I somehow doubt she'd be able to replicate Cindy though.
Mok captures and tortures the boys, using them to force Angel to do what he wants. She agrees to help him if he lets them go, but he takes the time to also fry their brains a bit, resulting in them being abnormally happy as they leave to go sing very different songs from the ones we saw them performing previously. It is...unsettling, to say the least.

"Brainwashed? That's silly. We couldn't even find any soap. We did find some used needles though."
Mok's concert doesn't quite go as he planned either though, resulting in Nuke York being deciamted and there being no giant demon creature to play with. Angel tries to seduce Mok to cancel the next concert and just run away with her, as she wants to save the world from demon things shitting everywhere, but he doesn't bite. The next concert is decided to be in Ohmtown, because there's more power there, and it causes a power surge than electrocutes our scarily brainwashed heroes back into theirselves. Dizzy and Stretch go off to try stopping Mok, but Omar refuses, still believing that Angel betrayed them and chose Mok over him. So, it's off to the concert as the finale of the film builds.

Which involves Mok just outright dressing like a supervillain, because why bother hiding it at this point?
Now, as the conclusion is upon, I want to talk briefly about one minor character with a major impact on the conclusion here: Zip. He's the youngest of the three henchmen/brothers Mok employs and is characterized as being fairly simple-minded. He's seen watching kid's shows and being rather innocent. This is important, which why I bring it up. Mok forces Angel to sing along with his demonic summoning song via a special collar he has on her and, sure enough, a big fucking demon does indeed spring from a hole in the ground.

It probably eats people like french fries. But where will it get that much ketchup?
Omar shows up to scream like a madman in a pretty awesome way, as he cuts Angel free with his "axe", but the beast attacks him and Zip blocks the attack, taking the brunt of it. His oldest brother, Toad, rushes to him to ask him why he did that, to which Zip tearfully answers that he doesn't want to be evil as he dies in his brother's arms. It's actually a very compelling scene and is one of the things that always stuck with me the most as a kid watching this movie. That selfless sacrifice to help protect someone else, it really is inspiring and his death is heart-wrenching. Seeing Toad cradle his lifeless body, tears in both their eyes, it's...I'm gonna need a moment...

Insert loud gross sobbing sounds here.
Angel goes to confront the demon herself, hoping to sing it back to Hell. Omar protests, but she tells him she has to do it. At first, it doesn't look like it's gonna work out for our heroine here, as demonic tendrils snake around her perimeter, waiting to strike at any moment. But then...a second voice enters the fray. Omar begins singing too, harmonizing with her, letting their voices sync together into one voice. Mok loses his shit panicking as his demon is being pulled back down into Hell, frantically pounding at his console to try and raise it back up, but it's just not happening. And it's at this point that he notices the incredibly angry Toad coming at him from behind.

To quote Cameron, "Those are come stranglin' hands, right there!"
But nope, no strangling today. He instead takes up his now former boss and heaves his ass into the gaping hole to the abyss, because that's the sort of thing one does when said former boss is responsible for the death of their sweet-natured sibling. As he tries to claw his way out of the hole, Mok reiterates what his computer said earlier: one voice, one heart, one song...but there is no one. Clearly, this meant that it took two people to be on the same wavelength together to send the best back, which makes a fair amount of sense, because magic is like that in these situations. Anyway, they sing the hole shut, the crowd goes wild, the dickhead emcee from earlier tries to take credit for it all, and the two continue singing their song to the excited crowd as the credits roll. That's all she wrote!

You just know they're going to ravage one another after this though. Nothing better than post-banishing-a-demon sex.
Rock & Rule is a great little animated film, filled to the brim with a truly jawsome soundtrack. Robin Zander and Debbie Harry compliment one another perfectly in the closing song, which is honestly the strongest song in the entire film. The only truly disappointing thing about it all is...there's no official soundtrack of it. Seriously, the only way to hear that final song is either in the film itself or via ripped audio from the film. It's sad, because it really is one of my favourite tunes from my youth. I used to listen to it by just repeatedly rewinding the recorded VHS copy I had over and over again. I don't do that anymore though. That'd be silly.

Now I have DVD for that.
There's no denying that I am a big fan of this film. That animated style that hovers between being cartoonish and mature really appeals to me and, as I said, the music really gets me going. I'm not the only fan either, as it has quite the cult following. Hell, it even got a Marvel Comics adaptation back in the day, believe it or not. The story always hooks me in too, because I find the main characters endearing enough to care about their struggles. Even that weirdo Mok is fun to watch, especially when he throws a massive tantrum after Angel refuses to sing for him when her seduction attempt fails on him.

Mick Jagger has seen better days.
Do I recommend the film? Hell yeah, I do! Especially if you're a fan of animation and some classic rock and funk. But hey, if Iggy Pop and Lou Reed don't do it for you, I can understand if you want to sit this one out. I actually bought this movie the day it came out on DVD, as I was keeping up with the long road to get it on DVD in the first place. Eleven years later, I still go back to it and am extremely pleased to own it. It has some pretty good extras too, including the Canadian version of the film (which has some different voice acting) and the original The Devil and Daniel Mouse short. It's well worth buying. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go sing "Send Love Through" 5 times in a row and possibly cook dinner. Later days, bleeders.

I'll probably also cry over Zip some more, because that wound will never heal.

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