You would certainly be excused if somehow Disco Worms came and went without making so much as a blip on your computer generated film radar. Like many CG feature films available on Blu & DVD these days, this one makes use of the international approach: namely it begins life as a fairly large release in its native country (in this case Denmark followed by Germany) then gets imported to the States & redubbed with a domestic vocal cast, then receives a pretty modest direct-to-video release. In fact from there it’s pretty much relegated to discount DVD bins at your local shopping center, the Netflix catalog, the $1 rental territory of the Redbox.
For the record- the international CG film route has, to date, never amounted to much. And it shouldn’t be too surprising. When you look at a Pixar film or a DreamWorks piece, a good portion of the success comes from the sheer cleverness of the plot. Whether confirming our suspicions that our toys really had minds of their own or teaching us that the reason monsters scare is that they collect the energy within human screams to power their city; the common thread is a noteworthy prose that just so happens to share the common medium of computer generated imagery.
If the cleverness of the plot itself isn’t enough to keep you entertained, solid acting and humor should fill in the gaps. The visual gags may have the attention of the little ones but it’s the pop culture references and the layered wit that keeps adults enthralled. Because of this, most foreign-turned-domestic CG movies fail. They either lack the initial cleverness, fail to connect with social reference or drop the ball on acting/ delivery (since matching mouth flaps to sync up with another language pretty much destroys any chance of decent dialog). The worst examples of the genre (Dolphin The Story of a Dreamer or Doogal to mention a few) are actually guilty of all three crimes.
All of this ranting brings us to Disco Worms, the 2008 film originally titled Sunshine Barry & The Disco Worms. Believe it or not, an argument could be made that this is one of the stronger indie CG films on the market.
As far as cleverness goes- the concept of talking worms isn’t too bad. A Bug’s Life, Antz, the Bee Movie and a few others have proven there’s lots of room in the marketplace for some personified insects doing what they do. In this case the lowly earthworm is given an opportunity to exhibit the fact that being the bottom of the food chain is no picnic and getting no respect, even from creatures as insignificant as the mosquito, is equally troubling.
To make matters worse, our protagonists happen to be worms reaching the age where it’s time to move out of their parents’ homes and get jobs at the local compost factory. Logically one might expect working worms to do such tasks as tunneling, hauling dirt or something to that effect; apparently here compost duty involves wearing a small shirt, tie & sports coat and stapling forms to leafs. A spoof on office-life undoubtedly, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I think the moral you’re supposed to take from this is that worms have no chance for advancement even in such working conditions as the bosses happen to all be insects.
Fortunately, just as all hope looks lost… In this case Barry taking a job at the compost factory like the rest of the worms in the neighborhood, a long forgotten disco record resurfaces and forever changes Barry’s destiny.
If this sounds a little weak on plot to you, rest assured, it is in action as well. However the gimmicks of revisiting the disco era provide ample opportunities for humorous clichés: afro wigs, disco balls, funky guitar licks, they’re all here. And speaking of, the soundtrack is surprisingly tight. Dancehall classics like Disco Inferno, the Villiage People even some Michael Jackson make the grade.
Pacing moves along quickly if plotted quite predictably. With a 75-minute runtime, scenes rarely drag on unnecessarily and believe it or not, some of the jokes actually hold up surprisingly well. Others fair less favorably; like some metal references and a little inappropriate language earning the PG rating.
The dialog does flow better than it has any right to, all factors considering. Mouth flaps are right on and the comedic/ conversational timing is decent as well.
In all viewers going in expecting legit Pixar or DreamWorks competition are going to be disappointed with the linear plot structure and fairly simplistic nature of the material but little ones will likely be entertained and adults should be able to find a bit to enjoy as well. All this one really lacks is a bit of cleverness; a good reason for disco to resurface to tie it all together. For example, how is it earthworms came upon a record of human disco tunes anyway? Were the original songs supposed to be ours or were there little earthworm equivalents making the same songs/ cutting records back in the 70s? Nitpicking? Maybe. But it’s the small attention to details that separate the great films from the mediocre ones. This one manages to avoid most of the pitfalls however and is certainly worth a rental when the kids have gotten tired of everything else in the Redbox.
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