Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark serves as the inspiration for Oliver Simonsen's 70-minute feature doc of the same name, though if we're being quite literal Simonsen is really calling the film The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus the Aardvark.
I'm sticking with Cerebus the Aardvark.
Often credited for starting the indie alternative comic field, Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark started in 1977 and ran for 300 issues. It holds the Guinness World Record for "Most Consecutive Issues of a Comic Book Drawn by One Person." Sim's effort here is admirable, noteworthy also because Sim himself had reportedly expressed that there was a 99% chance that even with a finished film he wouldn't actually sign off on it.
Fortunately for Simonsen, he watched the final product and signed off on it even having turned down the likes of Paramount, Dreamworks, and even George Lucas.
Mortensen claims the film is the first "no budget" CGI feature to be done in history, and while this particular critic would argue that point there's no denying that it's incredibly rare to put forth this kind of animated feature without megabucks behind you.
Though, technically, it has actually been done.
The story kicks off with Cerebus (voiced by John Di Crosta) battling Necross the Mad (Michael Petranech), an animated baddie bent on destroying the universe. This is, of course, a climactic moment as Cerebus the Aardvark takes us through a sort of barroom brawl where Cerebus encounters the leaders of a group known as the Pigts who await the return of the Pig God and hire Cerebus to swipe the wizard Maki's (Stephen Mendel) powerful jewel. Along the way, Cerebus encounters the likes of Lord Julius (also Di Crosta), Prince Mick (Jim Johnson), Elrod the Albino (Jeff Seiler), and Prince Keef (Jim Johnson).
For most viewers, I'd dare say that Cerebus the Aardvark is likely to fall short. Those familiar with Sim's original material will certainly find moments to admire here and those who are aware of the challenges of creating CGI will find even more to admire even if there are moments in Cerebus the Aardvark that make Adam Sandler's Pixels look like advanced animation.
For the record, Adam Sandler's Pixels is not advanced animation.
I still enjoyed it.
For the most part, I also enjoyed Cerebus the Aardvark. While the film lags at times, it's a fairly remarkable effort against an awful lot of odds and even if you don't love the film it would be impossible to not admire the effort. The vocal work is hit-and-miss, Di Crosta's work as Lord Julius the most effective in a film that aims and often hits the Dave Sim vibe.
At first glance, it may be difficult to figure out why Sim would say not to big studios while giving the nod to a no-budget effort such as this one. Then again, if you've ever been an indie artist you'll understand that completely.
While my head is acknowledging that I really shouldn't quite give Cerebus the Aardvark a true thumbs up, the simple truth is that my heart is ruling here and I'm leaning upward solely on the basis of the artistic accomplishment in pulling off this full-length, CGI feature without a budget and with an awful lot of evident artistry from beginning to end. It may not be perfect, but it's perfectly admirable and it's a joy to watch an artist bring a long-term vision to life.
So, brace yourself for the world of indie animation and enjoy Cerebus the Aardvark.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic