Wait, you mean there's a feature length stop motion Vietnam war film made with 12" GI JOES called VIVA THE 'NAM? What?
Published at: Jan. 21, 2010, 8:51 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
I can’t believe this actually exists, but yes there is. And it is awesome.
It was almost 8 and ½ years ago that I first ran across Kieran Healy and Paul Hanley’s brilliantly insane stop motion short films VICTORY AT ANY COST and COLONEL KHARNAGE: THE COMMIE KILLER at the Cinematexas short film festival. I was just a cub reporter then, new to AICN by just a few months, but those shorts stuck with me to the point that I occasionally quoted them to people that had no way of ever seeing them. Well, after writing up this review, Paul Hanley contacted me to tell me that he was working on a feature length version of these shorts that incorporated the footage I had already seen. A feature length stop motion Vietnam war movie starring 12” GI JOEs? Yeah, I was in. I told him to drop me a line when he was finished.
Two nights ago he e-mailed me. It was finally done. 8 ½ years later and he had finally finished his feature length film. Now a lot has happened in those 8 1/2 years. Youtube happened. Two wars happened. ROBOT CHICKEN happened. Hell, the internet up and got itself in a damned fool hurry. While this was a great idea then, could this hold up now? Yes. Yes it could.
VIVA THE ‘NAM is a feature length, 100 minute stop motion film shot on 16mm about Holmes, a not-too-bright recruit who is drafted and sent to the hellpit that is Viet-fucking-nam. There he slowly loses his mind and becomes a crazed, bloodthirsty idiot always in the wrong place at the wrong time. What works about this film is that it isn’t simply a series of riffs on Vietnam war films – don’t get me wrong, there IS plenty of that – but it has an honest to god narrative driving the film from frame one. Holmes is an unwitting Lt. Dan, cursed to die in war as every generation before him has. He wants no part of his legacy, but the US Military has different ideas.
From that point on we watch as he slowly loses his mind, wandering through scene after offensive scene lambasting the US military, Vietnam War films, hippie freaks and the era itself. Filled with dozens of recognizable characters (and actors), including people you would never imagine had an action figure (one friend was prompted to ask “Wait, is that Ron Livingston”), this runs the gamut of subtle and sublime on up to the blatantly ridiculous. Much as you’d expect from something like this, it is something of a mixed bag. There are a few rough patches where the film slows down a bit, but invariably it always picks back up with another uproarious scene of absurdity. And the ending is so clusterfuck insane and side-splittingly funny, that it makes you forgive any flaws that arise.
After all, this is a passion project. This isn’t something someone spent a year working on in a studio. This is something someone spent 10 years working on in their garage. Some of the voice talent could use redubbing, the soundmix is a bit amateur and a few scenes could be trimmed for brevity, but all of the stop motion work is fantastic. The sets, the vehicles, the trees, the blood and guts are all painstakingly rendered to scale and just look cool as hell. And the jokes are at times completely uproarious. In an era when parody films like this are dull, tired and weak, this shows how it should done, taking a fresh approach, skewering a genre of film not parodied in almost two decades.
The film is seeing its premiere next Wednesday, Jan 27th at the Alamo Ritz and should prove to be an awesome experience. It is a brilliant work of deranged genius. I’m very curious to see what’s going to happen to this now that it is in a finished state. One thing is for sure, at least for one night here in Austin, you can see a stop motion GI JOE war movie on the big screen. And it is totally worth it.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.