New movie releases this week include Katherine Heigl’s return to the big screen, plus The Promise, Truman, and more
Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., April 21
In the time-honored tradition of alternate-world fantasies, this posits a post-WWII Hollywood nestled against a borough called Toontown, populated by autonomous cartoon figures. Most of these seem to find employment in the entertainment industry, and all may wander about Hollywood at will and rub elbows with resident humans. The result is just about the damnedest thing ever seen. Of course we have seen mildly damned things of this nature, or merely darned ones, before. (Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse in Anchors Aweigh, etc.) But never anything remotely on this scale. And the convincingness of the treatment overcomes all misgivings and validates these cartoon figures as fantasy life-forms as much as — or more so than — King Kong, Godzilla, The Blob, et al. (Indeed the technical problem of actors acting with creatures who aren't really there, but are to be added later in the lab, is much the same in all cases.) If the movie overall inspires something like awe more often than something like amusement, this is only because the technical difficulty makes complete relaxation impossible; and it's a tribute to sheer technical wizardry — that of animator Richard Williams, primarily — that the movie is as often amusing as it is. With Bob Hoskins, Joanna Cassidy, and Christopher Lloyd; directed by Robert Zemeckis. 1988.