Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Welcome to the bizzarre and wacky world of Adam Elliot, an Australian writer/director/claymation artist, who can probably best be described as Tim Burton on steroids. Several days ago, I posted a review of Elliot’s latest film, Mary and Max, the story of an unlikely friendship between a pre-adolescent Australian girl and a reclusive New Yorker with Asperger’s Syndrome. The special features on the Mary and Max DVD include the subject of this review, Elliot’s concise, darkly humorous 23 minute, 2003 Academy Award winning animated short film Harvie Krumpet, which is also available on stand-alone DVD. You know you are in for a treat from the opening statement, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them…and then there are others.
Harvek Milos Krumpetzki, (later changed to Harvie Krumpet) is a Polish child born at the beginning of World War II, with Tourette’s Syndrome; a condition marked by his involuntary compulsion to touch people on the nose. Harvie is home schooled by his semi-literate mother, who teaches him a series of fakts (facts misspelled) which he keeps in a notepad tied around his neck. At age 18, Harvie finds his parents frozen to death on their bicycles, and flees to Australia to start a new life. He lands a job working at a garbage dump until his life spirals out of control when he is struck by lightning, loses one of his testicles to cancer, and eventually falls victim to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Despite what seems like an endless stream of misfortune, Harvie manages to find some degree of joy in his life when he exercises his freedom, becoming a nudist and animal activist, and marries a nurse, Valerie Burstall, whom he meets in the hospital. Rendered sterile after losing a testicle and unable to conceive, Harvie and Valerie adopt a Thalidomide baby, named Ruby, who grows up to become an advocate for the disabled. After his wife dies suddenly from a blood clot to the brain, Harvie winds up in the Pleasant Paddocks nursing home where he assists a fellow patient in suicide from an overdose of morphine, and finds inspiration to live life to the fullest.
While the plot summary may sound like nothing but a series of senseless tragedies, Elliot has an amazing ability to put a comedic spin on even the most tragic of circumstances. The humor in this animated short is generated, in part, by the deadpan narration by actor Geoffrey Rush, (Shine) and intermittent "fakts" from Harvie’s notepad such as, “the trouble with nude dancing is that not everything stops when the music does,” interspersed between scenes. Due the adult themes of disease, suicide, and nudity, this film in not recommended for children under 13 years of age.
Elliot’s claymation animation style is similar to Ardman Studio’s Wallace and Gromit, with meticulously designed miniature sets and near life-like stop motion photography. Although the color palette is somewhat understated, Elliot’s quirky characters provide some much needed color to the otherwise bleak story line. The soundtrack features an interesting contrast including well known classical pieces including Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major and Keith Binn’s catchy off-beat tune God is Better Than Football, accompanied by a nicely choreographed wheelchair dance.
While Harvie Krumpet may be short in length, it is very long on entertainment value. Elliot has built his reputation by creating ordinary, anti-heroes with afflictions, who find a way to make the most of life, by overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Krumpet is a darkly comedic gem in efficient storytelling by a master at taking little globs of clay and transforming them into sympathetic characters, with whom anyone who has even been marginalized (which includes most of us) in any way, can readily identify.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older