“We must remember Zip, that evil spelled backward is live. And we all want to live, don’t we?”
After the rock ‘n roll tittyfest Heavy Metal, Canadian animation company Nelvana tries its own version of a rock-inspired animated film. Theirs was more family friendly, contained anime-inspired funny animal critters based on the bands Cheap Trick, Blondie, and a villainous Mick Jagger clone not-so-subtly named Mok. For years Rock ‘n Rule was kept off DVD due to copyright issues over the music, but when Unearthed Films released a 2-disc special edition, I had to clutch this bizarre nugget of my teen-hood. I inflicted it upon Milky this movie night, and somehow he survived.
This is the first feature-length animated film made entirely in Canada, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs it ain’t! But it’s a lot of cheesy fun, with some really good music, so we’ll forgive them. It’s a simple enough tale about a group of friends in a rock band trying to get noticed, in a postapocalyptic world where the rats, mice, cats and dogs have evolved to take our place- thus explaining the button noses and pointy ears, and giving the movie some kid crossover appeal. The lead singers are Angel and Omar, whose singing voices are Debbie Harry (solo from Blondie at this point) and Robin Zander from Cheap Trick. Angel plays the keytar, and thus second fiddle to Omar’s ranting hard rock guitar. This creates tension, and of course they’re sleeping together, so the band in reality would disintegrate long before a power-mad rock musician stepped in to screw things up. Backing them up are Stretch and Dizzy, loosely modeled on the drummer and guitarist from Cheap Trick.
Omar and Angel fight over whose songs to play on open mike night, with O growling “Born to Raise Hell” and Angel’s sweet pipes belting out the best song from the movie, “Send Love Through.” Debbie Harry would use the same music and re-release this as “Maybe For Sure” on her Def Dumb & Blonde album, but the chorus seems forced. Here’s the original, and it’s played in pieces throughout the film. It’s so catchy that it helps things along a lot.
Lou Reed also has a hand in the music- he does Mok’s songs, and the second-best is definitely “My Name is Mok,” a spoof of superstar rock egos. He does some of the minor songs in the interludes too, such as “Triumph of the Glory in Me,” a goofy anthem used to hypnotize Omar and the boys so Mok can steal away with Angel. The little songs are quite funny and the bands seemed to have a lot of fun working on the film. The movie has its moments, such as the cartoon that Zip, one of Mok’s muscle-head goons, watches. The Uncle Mikey Show, which teaches kids the difference between good and evil. Remember, giving a cow a flower is good. Chasing it around with an axe? Evil.
Mok is of course, evil. He wants Angel for her voice- which is the final key that will let him summon an enormous demon to rule the Earth with. But I think he’s just jaded with success, and wants to see the demon eat his audience. He rides around in a zeppelin, between ruined cities like “Nuke York” to perform at “Carnage Hall” or Radioactive City Music Hall. When he finally hooks Angel up to a synthesizer to summon the demon, it’s Iggy Pop, rumbling an all-too-short song called “Pain and Suffering.” Angel is of course scantily clad to give budding teen boys some flashes of watercolor wank material. Which is probably why I remember this movie so well.
Can Omar get over his pride, and sing with Angel to save the planet? I think you can guess. The movie is a bit slow in points, but it has a lot of character. It couldn’t be as violent and boobie-laden as Heavy Metal, but it makes up for it with wit and charm. And they try to get a little naughty here and there to keep teenagers and adults interested, but it’s a hard sell. It was lazy to make them all funny animals, so they could stick with their usual button-nosey dog-eared rotoscoped models, and the humor is definitely on the corny side. But it certainly has its moments, and some one-liners that stick with you. Like “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with…. FAT!”
Nelvana is probably best known for the Care Bears and other ’80s stuff, but they also animated Boba Fett‘s first appearance in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, an abomination that I will probably re-watch and review here someday.
Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? No way in hell
Quotability Rating: Medium
Cheese Factor: Metric fuckton of cheese curds on poutine
High Points: The songs!
Low Point: Roller-skating disco goons
Gratuitous Boobies: While Angel is hot, they’re mice you furry fuck!