(Bill Plympton, USA, 2004, 35mm, 75 min.)
Imagine a cross between cartoonish musical Grease, Finnish show-band crazies the Leningrad Cowboys, and violently twisted video game Stubbs the Zombie, and there you have it: Hair High, the latest full-length blast of looniness from Bill Plympton (I Married a Strange Person). Naturally, that analogy, colorful as it may sound, is a mite reductive. Plympton's work is both more surrealistic and more scatological than that description implies, although this animated feature is set in the 1950s (the rockabilly soundtrack features the likes of Hasil Adkins), the characters do sport madcap hairstyles, and central couple Cherri and Spud (voiced by Sarah Silverman and Eric Gilliland) do return from the dead in time to make a "killer" entrance at the prom.
As with other "Plymptoons," Hair High can be pretty gross, as when the wheezy bio teacher (David Carradine*) coughs up a lung--among other organs--and it's the visceral stuff I find least appealing. The surrealistic flights of fancy, on the other hand, are as creative as ever, while the scatological material generates the biggest laughs. Granted, the jokes can be rather obvious--the Echo Park football team are called the Cocks--but a laugh is a laugh, and I was unable to suppress one when the announcer (Jay O. Sanders) exclaimed, "That Cock is full of spunk!" So Hair High isn't for everyone, but it's packaged with the quite wonderful, thoroughly un-"yucky" Fan and the Flower (narrated by Paul Giamatti). Plus, Plympton will be producing an original drawing for each audience member on opening night. Talk about spunk!
*Other voices include Keith Carradine, Craig Bierko, Beverly D'Angelo, Matt Groening, Don Hertzfeldt, Dermot Mulroney, Tom Noonan, and producer Martha Plimpton.
Hair High plays Mar. 23-29, Thurs.-Wed. at 7 and 9pm (Sat. and Sun. at 5pm) at the Northwest Film Forum. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave., on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine. For more information, please see www.nwfilmforum.org. You can also call 206-329-2629 for general info and 206-267-5380 for show times.