Name the cinematic genre that's easiest to mess up, and sci-fi/fantasy is pretty high up on the list. Flights of imagination, when done correctly, resonate with a kind of clarity and cleverness that instantly connect with your own sense of wonder. On the other hand, when handled poorly, or missing just a minor beat here or there, the fairytale or fable becomes the most insufferable of celluloid experiences. While it wants to be an allegory about prejudice and the overcoming of same, the new CG spectacle Delgo is nothing more than routine ideas badly rendered.
Here's the idea. The Lockni live on the land. The Nohrin live in the sky. When the latter's situation worsens, they attack the former. Eventually, an uneasy truce is reached, both sides trying to live together in harmony. This makes Sedessa (Anne Bancroft -- yes, the one who died 3 1/2 years ago), the sinister sister of King Zahn (Louis Gossett Jr.), very unhappy. She wants to wipe out the Lockni once and for all. With the help of Raius (Malcolm McDowell) a turncoat general, and an army of social outcasts, she plans on finishing what her brother will not do. In the meantime, teenage Lockni Delgo (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and his buddy Filo (Chris Kattan) become embroiled in a problematic political controversy. When they save Nohrin Princess Kyla (Jennifer Love Hewitt) from harm, they bring the rising tensions between the sides to a rolling, war-like boil. Article continues below
Take a group of shell-less turtles (the Lockni), give them tribal tattoos, pair them against a racist mob of shaved bats (the Nohrin) wearing drag show remnants and teach them all a lesson about intolerance, acceptance, and how violence eventually solves most problems, and you've got this insufferable kiddie fantasy flop. Unlike fine wine, which gets better with age, this six-year-in-the-making monstrosity clearly got corked somewhere along the way. The result is a rancid, unpalatable vintage. With characters we care nothing about and an art design which looks like a bad Pixar peyote trip, instead of something out of this world we get a movie that's trying to play way out of its league.
Nothing works here, not the multi-cultural animal ethnicities, not the dull and lifeless action scenes, not the battles by way of The Clone Wars clunkiness, not the vacant voice work. As unexplained elements pass by with sour eye candy unease, we are drawn more to the mediocrity of it all, not the magic. Perhaps the biggest offense here is the character of Filo, played with club-foot clumsiness by Kattan. Animated with a flippant flamboyance that suggests more than the PG production can handle, he is simultaneously irritating and offensive. It's odd that a film about acceptance of others would be so stereotypical about one of its own.
Elsewhere, the rest of the cast gets lost in the stiff, static animation. While first time filmmakers Mark F. Adler and Jason Maurer deserve kudos for creating this entire project on their own, with private money, and their own sense of creative wonder, the results make most computer-generated, direct-to-DVD junk look fantastic in comparison. Delgo suffers from a clear case of excess. Everything is too busy, with too much background trying to support an overabundance of animated action. This may sound like a recipe for visual wonder and awe. Instead, it's a lot like watching your computer's graphics card vomit.
With six names on the story/screenplay credit, and a last-act reliance on a "might makes right" concept of closure, Delgo is loud, obnoxious nonsense. It proves that, when tackling the sci-fi/fantasy film, good intentions can still lead to bad entertainment.