The story opens as a naïve and cherubic angel floats to earth to right the devils wrongs. No, it’s not John Travolta, it’s a free-wheeling little charmer named Butterscotch Gaye. The narrative is presented in the form of animated collages of fairy-tale imagery centered around rendered photos of the title character who looks exactly like a wide eyed infant, thrilled to be alive and in clean diapers. Butterscotch Gaye travels the earth on his way to the devil’s castle meeting various characters who have been done dirty by Satan to the tune of their immortal souls. Butterscotch makes promises of redemption to those slighted by the arch-fiend, but when he arrives at the mouth of hell, he finds that his game plan (as well as his tender hide) may be more than a little half-baked.
The origin of the name Butterscotch Gaye is not explained, but in a rhyming ballad such as this, we have to assume that Gaye is just a more productive rhyme than, say, Azræl or Malachim. The poetic narration is clear and not overwhelmed by the punctuating sound effects or the music, a mix of Mussorgsky and the Jackson Five (sounding here much more like the Partridge Family). Much has been made of the films original visual style and the use of computer enhanced still photographs for animation. It’s effective and works well for the piece, but to me it just seems a lot like Terry Gilliam if he took himself seriously. Much of the animation is fairly simplistic, but some of the compositions are as striking as the comic book cover paintings of Dave McKean. My geeky comic book reference becomes even more appropriate considering the liberal use of baroque dialog bubbles in the film to accompany the narration.
The film does deliver a satisfactory amount of artistic substance, and the notion that creator Purvis has manufactured a viable moving storybook is intriguing, but in the end the whimsical poetry is just a little too precious to fully engage me. On the other hand, adult fans of renaissance fairs and Harry Potter will probably love it.