Slamdance Film Review: Slide

Film Reviews

Slamdance Film Review: Slide
Director: Bill Plympton

Premiere: 1.21.24

Animator and cartoonist Bill Plympton gained popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s thanks to his unique style of pencil illustration and his dark sense of humor. He is perhaps best known for his two Oscar-nominated animated shorts Your Face and Guard Dog. His latest work is Slide, an animated feature centered on a small, southwestern town called Sourdough Creek which is on the verge of booming thanks to the production of a Hollywood western slated to be shot there. Being somewhat of a backwater town, not all the citizens of Sourdough Creek are delighted at this prospect and all manner of madcap mayhem ensues.

The film works like an anthology as we are introduced to the zany citizens of Sourdough Creek through lively vignettes, each of which gives us a look into the mind of an idiosyncratic member of the town: the titular lone-wanderer who wields a slide guitar like a six-shooter, a manic Hollywood starlet with debilitating entomophobia and a motley crew of brothel workers who use their mechanized bras as tools and weapons. Plympton’s character design is wonderfully exaggerated with many of Sourdough Creek’s citizens being grotesque in appearance and voiced with suitable gusto. The actors seem to relish in chewing the scenery especially since Plympton’s script is cynical and sardonic.

In contrast to his other works, however, Slide feels frustratingly underdeveloped and, in some cases, unfinished. While some sections—particularly a few dream sequences—of the film are wonderfully detailed and gorgeously animated, others feel more like a first draft or proof of concept that has yet to be completely ironed out. Granted, the version screened for this festival is not considered the final cut, but the inconsistency in quality can cause a bit of whiplash. When it flies, it soars; but when it struggles, it flounders. It’s not that Slide doesn’t have a central message—there’s much to be said here about the destructive power of corporate greed, particularly when it comes to land development—it’s more that it gets confused and distracted along the way.

In its current form, Slide feels disjointed and bloated, lacking much of the enthusiasm that makes Plympton’s previous work so memorable. It’s not without its highlights, but one has to wonder if it would have worked better as a short or a series of shorts rather than a full-length feature. –Seth Turek

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