Not Exactly Good but Better Than it Could Have Been
Some say it was only a matter of time before “mockbuster” studio Asylum took aim at the CG medium in trying to capitalize on audiences who often mistake their movies for the real thing. Perhaps you’ve heard of Transmorphers or Snakes on a Train or The Day the Earth Stopped? Yup, all these guys.
The thing with CG is it is incredibly costly and time consuming to produce. So studios without massive, massive budgets (to provide some insight, the average cost to make the good CG films you see up at your local theater is around $200-million) typically have only one option for releasing a CG film: They buy the rights to a foreign-produced CG movie that’s already run its course, they bring in some actors to record an English vocal track and they release it as something all their own.
Does this technique work? Rarely! But it’s quite common, especially in the direct-to-DVD scene, the kiosks of the Redbox and through streaming services like Netflix. One would assume this would be what The Asylum would have done as well but the company insists it wanted to do things the old fashioned way.. “I think it’s a very natural progression,” says David Rimawi, CEO and co-founder of The Asylum. “Our in-house VFX department is used to creating many, many sharks and robots for our live-action films, so animating creatures for a film like this just makes sense.”
Enter Izzie’s Way Home; a 2016 American direct-to-video computer-animated comedy adventure film produced by The Asylum. It represents The Asylum’s first animated feature, and is considered to be a mockbuster of the 2016 Pixar Animation Studios film Finding Dory even though it came out one month to the day prior to Finding Dory.
Asylum assembled a serviceable vocal cast including the likes of Tori Spelling, Zack Ward and Joey Fatone.
The story tells of an aquarium community of fish, the likes of which can make Mean Girls seem like a group of well-adjusted girl scouts, who get dumped from their yacht home directly into the open ocean. From there it’s a mission of dad and daughter reuniting from opposite sides of an underwater volcano (why they simply don’t swim the long way around is never made clear).
Along the way we encounter all sorts of weird and wacky oceanic inhabitants; an octopus known as Jimmy Eight-Legs, an anorexic seahorse, a burping sea cucumber that poops out his intestines in the face of danger (three times across the 74-minute run-time no less). Hey, nobody ever accused The Asylum of being discreet.
The film’s plotting is surprising decent with the exception of a few scenes that tend to meander a bit. Honestly, for a first time effort, the finished product isn’t near the train wreck one would expect. Obviously, it gives Pixar absolutely no viable competition whatsoever though it does have its share of decent moments (Fatone, in particular rises to the challenge of breathing some life into the role of said sea cucumber).
Visually, the film is a very mixed bag. Occasionally textures and backgrounds are quite well-done but more often than not, things look flat and lifeless. The character facial rigs in particular come off as odd and robotic, with mouth flaps often falling out of sync or characters speaking without any mouth movements at all. This is more noticeable in some scenes than it is in others but it’s clear that a bit more polish would have been useful throughout.
In conclusion, it’s easy to bag on the film. After all, we live in a society who has been spoiled by the likes of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks with our CG animated films for years but all factors considering, The Asylum didn’t botch this one up nearly as bad as it could have. In fact, an argument could be made with a little more finesse and ironing out of the proverbial rough spots, perhaps they could transition themselves into a legitimate producer of CG animated feature film. Somehow I doubt they’re willing to let go of opportunities like Angry Bears, 51 Shades of Grey, or Independent’s Day.