‘Cool World’ doesn’t explore sex in cartoons but rather sex with them
Written by Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
Cool World is a fabulously fascinating failure of a feature film. Say that three times fast. There’s no beating around the bush, Cool World was a mature, perhaps even perverted, attempt at capitalizing on the eroticism of the character Jessica Rabbit from the underrated masterpiece Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. It’s truly amazing what Robert Zemeckis pulled off back in 1988. Aside from getting Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck together in the same film and aside from seamlessly blending live-action and animation together, he also managed to introduce the concept of sex into a film with Dumbo and Yosemite Sam with zero people freaking out about it. Imagine if this film were released today! The eighties were an awesome time to be alive.
Jessica Rabbit is a flawless example of dancing a fine line. Zemeckis infers and implies but never actually goes there. Jessica and Roger don’t have sex, they play “patty-cake”. Eddie Valiant isn’t aroused by Jessica, he’s “thinking of dabbling in water colors”. And best of all Jessica isn’t bad, she’s just drawn that way. While Who Framed Roger Rabbit? meticulously walked on the edge. Cool World just jumps over it.
Cool World has dual storylines going, both very odd. The first involves Frank Harris (Brad Pitt), who gets sucked into the alternate 2-D animated world of drawings and doodles, called Cool World, and has eventually grown acclimated to this new world. However he has an internal conflict with being physical with his doodle girlfriend because sex between flesh and blood characters and the ink and paper ones is forbidden (the film never clarifies exactly why that is).
The second involves Holli Would (Kim Basinger) and her creator Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne). Jack is a cartoonist in prison for the murder of his cheating wife and her lover. He has developed an odd fascination with some of his more erotic drawings of Holli. Holli basically runs the underground in Cool World and is desperate to either seduce Frank, because he’s the only “real” person currently in Cool World, or find a way to suck Jack into Cool World and sleep with him. This is how the tagline “Holli Would if she could” came to be. Holli desperately wants to make it with a real person because she believes doing so would allow her to enter the real world, or something like that. The film is incredibly vague about this stuff which has probably contributed to its reputation as a bad film as well as a box-office bomb.
Despite all its flaws as a film Cool World does pose a very intriguing question. If you could, would you make it with Holli? There have likely been hundreds if not thousands of conversations between comic book nerds and Sci-Fi geeks over which Star Trek characters you would or wouldn’t sleep with. I’d propose that an humanoid alien and a cartoon character are very similar to one another. Both are fictitious and implausible yet numerous people have admitted to a willingness to copulate with the real life character but few even feel comfortable discussing the cartoon one. Do we view this as odd? If you admit to being attracted to Jessica Rabbit or Holli Would is that akin to some sort of sexual tabu. If the idea has ever crossed anyone’s mind it shouldn’t mean you have a weird doodle fetish, it just means that Jessica and Holli were “drawn that way”, sex is implied. I’d wager there isn’t a single mature adult who saw either film and didn’t have this cross there minds yet people aren’t comfortable “going there”, which is kind of fascinating. I’m surprised a more auteur filmmaker hasn’t tried to tackle a concept like this.
Cool World isn’t a “so bad it’s good” type of film, but as I said in the first column we’re going to be exploring not only the most entertaining films of bad cinema but some of the more intriguing ones as well. Cool World is certainly that.