Cult animator Bill Plympton's hand-penciled expressionism has, in the past, been put to best use in his shorts, likely because the deadpan, spatial-distorting sight gags often can't sustain momentum in long form, almost by design. But his beautifully creepy sixth feature Idiots & Angels somehow transcends this limitation and proves his most fully realized idea yet, a grim fairy-tale comedy about a nameless, business-suited gun dealera man so truculent that he'll casually firebomb a driver for taking his parking spacewho suddenly discovers angelic wings sprouting from his back. Cunningly conveyed without a word of dialogue, the mean bastard's spiritual awakening evolves as his new appendages (at first tiny enough to shave off, then increasing in size and power) thwart his every transgression. It's a humiliating rise-fall-rise tale that ropes in a fiscally desperate bar owner; his abused, salsa-dancing wife; a conniving surgeon looking to cash in on the medical breakthrough of wing amputation; and a suburb full of arson victims all portrayed in extremely kid-unfriendly sketches. Less concerned with punch lines than nimble storytelling and widescreen aesthetics (every brooding corner of the frame is blotted in monochromatic noir hues), Plympton mines elegance from the utterly gonzo.
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