Monday, June 17, 2013

If you watch only one movie about a magical teddy bear shrinking a boy so he can travel through his grandpa's innards, let it be this

Netflix's April Fool's Day joke speaks for itself, but the fact that this is an actual movie speaks for humanity:

I don't quite know where to begin when discussing a movie entitled Chasing the Kidney Stone. Do I start with the anamorphic teddy bear that speaks with a Woody Allen-esque delivery and seems violently possessive of his boy owner? The fact that a kids film opens with an extended sexy jazz number set in a smoky blue nightclub? That the 10-year-old main character seems to have a crush on a photograph of his dead grandmother?

Like a Terry Gilliam telling of The Magic Schoolbus, Chasing the Kidney Stone (aka Body Troopers) is indeed a sight to behold.

Quick Plot: As you would expect in any typical live action children's film, Chasing the Kidney Stone follows Simon, a bland 10-ish year old with a magical non-dirty talking teddy bear that uses a chemistry set to shrink him to cellular size for insertion into his sick grandfather's throat. Once inside, Simon proceeds to travel through his beloved pop pop's body, from its sassy taste buds to its no-nonsense gallbladder. 

Along the way, Simon befriends Mapster, a feisty white blood cell with a backpfeifengesicht face, and Alveole, a soft-spoken lung cell sporting Lazy Town-style hair. Together, the trio befriends the out-of-work A.Pendix, has a heart-to-heart (literally) with a Tim Burton styled orchestra, and battles the mighty ‘50s sci-fi villain Halitosis via the power of flamenco dancing.

No, seriously. All of these things happen.

It’s far better than it sounds.

Chasing the Kidney Stone is a typical European children’s film, meaning it’s visually ambitious and kind of insane. You almost wonder if the entire production was commissioned by some kind of experimental private elementary school that thought the best way to spur a fourth-grade interest in biology would be via an expensive fantasy film. If only the world were that wonderful.

Dubbed with a better-than-average English track, this is one of those strange, strange tales that ends up being far more entertaining than any pseudo-educational-slightly-gross film should be. The science doesn't quite line up with any fifth grader's textbook, but there's a strong, nerdy attempt to make knowledge something sort of groovy. It's both admirable AND entertaining, and really, is there anything better?

Right. Passing a kidney stone and the glorious urination that comes with it. I suppose that's pretty damn good. 

High Points
The production and costume designs really are something to see, from the fairies-meet-Borg taste buds rising from the floor to the envious sight of a Bob Fett-like Halitosis surfing down the digestive tract on a peanut half. It’s like Julie Taymor got trapped in a doctor’s office and had to fantasize herself some sort of narrative.

Low Points
I don’t necessarily think that a lung cell is supposed to travel all the way down to the urinary tract, or that a kidney stone is a byproduct of having a broken heart. So while I never was one for acing science class, something tells me that some of the facts might be a little skewed for the purposes of entertainment

Lessons Learned
Kidney stones are quite agile

Crying is for losers

People always underestimate what a teddy bear can do

Most teddy bears fantasize about being born in Ohio

The Winning Line
"The day that I need to get a blood test, I'm going with you."
And that, ladies, is how you know he loves you.

Chasing the Kidney Stone recently expired on Instant Watch, but praying to the gods of the Internet/overly obsessive talking teddy bears with shady moral characters could potentially bring it back. While this is technically aimed at kids, it’s weird enough to charm any cinephile with an appreciation of the bizarre. 

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