In a selfless act to explore the murky depths of obscure films, I have taken on the gruelling mission to submit myself regularly to what cinema has to offer on the lowest shelf and in its darkest recesses. Normal rules don’t apply here, neither do good taste and common sense; this is Cinema Obscura.
It might seem unjustified to add a person like Steve Oedekerk to this ill-famed section of CoP, since he has been involved mostly in mainstream cinema. As writer/producer/director he was responsible for several successful movies like Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, Kung Pow, Patch Adams, Ace Ventura and the comedy TV series In Living Color. Nevertheless, Oedekerk has his own pet project that grants him a place in this darker side of cinema: his infamous Thumb Stories.
The sheer silliness of his Thumb Stories makes these short animated films into rather elusive material. The idea is as simple as it is daft: famous movies are spoofed using thumb puppets as actors. That basically means you have a real human thumb with (usually) two eyes and a mouth and a tiny, doll-like body. Just looking at these silly puppets makes you laugh, especially how they edited in the – real – mouths and eyes. It’s a very clever combination of live puppeteering, video editing and conventional and computer generated animation (or digital, with real digits. Pun intended). Oedekerk calls it Thumbation. It’s this craftsmanship that sets Oedekerk’s work aside from the low-quality trash that pulp movies usually offer. I therefore was doubting whether I would add the Thumb Stories to this section of bad taste, as it is quite funny and of high quality. Still, it is silly humour at its weirdest and the acquired taste it sometimes demands, paired with the obscurity of these short films made me decide to give it a special place in the pits.
Up until now, six Thumb Stories have been completed and a new one is underway. These six are:
· The Blair Thumb
· The Godthumb
· Bat Thumb
· Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle
· Thumbatrix (in production)
It’s obvious which movies are spoofed here and besides Frankenthumb, which is more focussed on the story itself, they all take a piss at the original movies and their actors in particular.
In Bat Thumb (a.k.a. Wuce Bane) you see the caped crusader as a stressed underachiever in Gaaathumb City, with a hilariously annoying side-kick called Bluejay, dressed in a really stupid bird costume. The resemblance to George Clooney is quite evident and the style of the old TV series is nicely blended with that of the original movie. Thumbtanic is even more hilarious with all it’s cheesy references and great animation work. The old lady from the picture (Rose in Titanic, here she’s called Geranium) suffers from acute narcolepsy, the ship’s captain and engineer are insane and the scene where “My Heart Will Go On” is sung (by Celine Di-Thumb?) is just an outright screamer. The list of silly references in these short films is endless and will invoke a lot of grins and even outright laughter.
Steve Oedekerk proves he really has some screws loose, but fortunately he knows to compensate for that madness with a lot of creativity and skill. These short features are a crazy ride through Oedekerk’s head and we will certainly see more Thumb movies come from him. Check Oedekerk’s site for his complete oeuvre and Thumb Movie trailers. The six Thumb stories have been put together in a 6 DVD Box, in which there is thumbthing be to found for everyone.
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