The wildly inventive “Cryptozoo” is trippy animated film that’s full of fantasy and wonder. Featuring intricate, explicit hand drawn animation (this one is for adults only), the psychedelic vibe matches well with writer / director Dash Shaw‘s story of mythical creatures, and the one woman who is determined to save them all. It’s an experimental work of art that celebrates the idea of the outcast.
Lauren (voice of Lake Bell) has been haunted by memories of the mythical baku who came to eat her nightmares when she was a child. Because of the help of this creature, she has dedicated her life to rescuing unloved cryptids and housing them in her sanctuary. Her path crosses with Amber (voice of Louisa Krause), a woman who encountered a unicorn in the woods and ended up killing the animal after a freak accident. The two women begin to question if holding these imaginary beasts in the confines of a zoo rather than letting them wander free is the right thing to do.
The majority of the film isn’t a joy to sit through, and the story meanders more often than not. The characters are unpleasant, and I didn’t find myself invested in them emotionally. The commentary is heavy-handed, from the criticism of capitalism to the idea that animals have rights too. No matter what your political leanings (for the record, I tend to agree with the film’s slant), the aggressive messaging is off-putting. But there’s something about the magical animation and bizarre story that kept me hungry for more.
“Cryptozoo” is an ambitious and complex film that, despite a lot of stumbling blocks along the way, is extremely provocative and impressive. It’s not a great film, but it’s one that is bizarre and highly memorable for (mostly) the right reasons.
By: Louisa Moore