The Congress is billed as an adaption of a book but is probably best described as a re-imagining. Even Folman himself admits that the first act of the film bears nearly no resemblance to the novel, which is perhaps why the script in these parts is decidedly weaker than later in the film. Unfortunately, even when the script is lent some clout by taking sections directly from the novel it still feels dated. Firstly due to the 3 year production time, fashions change incredibly fast in the digital age and Folman’s script doesn’t keep up. Secondly, the book was written in 1971 and was somewhat behind the curve then, Huxley had envisioned a consumer-driven dystopia forty years earlier and the dichotomy of “those above and those below” was the driving force behind H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine. While the congress reimagines these elements into a modern, Hollywood context crammed full of direct jabs at big companies and producers, they still feel passé to say the least. So while the film has delusions of grandeur it adds nothing to an old debate and is decidedly pompous in doing so.
A strange by-product of the terrible script in the first act is that it renders Robin Wright entirely unbelievable as a human when playing herself. The script calls for permanent caricatures so that every character remains recognisable after the jump into animation. Unfortunately this makes the characters painfully two-dimensional at all times, even our protagonist.
The animated sections draw their influence from almost every type of cartoon and comic discipline. While there are sweet nods to the spaghetti noodle animation of early Disney the influence of crude caricature and Yellow Submarine is clear. Incidentally this gives the film one of it’s highlights as a well-known actor, who is never explicitly identified, no doubt due to copyright issues, makes cameo appearance in our animated world. In the end this middle section is the most appealing, the animation is incredibly accomplished and contains a level of pop culture satire that is off the scale for mainstream films. Some of it is crude and obvious, but when every animated character seems to be a reference to some film, book or celebrity there is more to be gleaned from watching this section. Unfortunately the rest of the film lags behind in style and substance.
- Entertainment: 3/5
- Artistic: 3/5
- Intellectual: 2/5