It seems every generation must have its own animated pop music film. The 1970s brought us “The Wall.” In the ’80s, it was “Heavy Metal.” In the ’90s…okay, they’re running a little late in the ’90s; some sort of millennial jet lag or something, so we had to wait for 2001 and “Wave Twisters.”
It was worth the wait.
Using the “skratch”-heavy hip-hop stylings of DJ Q-Bert’s popular CD of the same name as its soundtrack, director/animators Syd Garon and Eric Henry have created a dazzling animation spectacle. “Wave Twisters” sends us off on an intergalactic odyssey with its hero, the Inner Space Dental Commander, and his assistants; R2-D2 lookalike Rubbish, sexy futuristic femme-fatale Honey, and oldster B-Boy Grandpa, an expert on the object of their quest. Together, they must do battle with the evil Lord Ook and his villainous sidekicks, including a band of turntable warriors consisting of members of DJ supergroup the Invisible Skratch Piklz (Q-Bert, Yogafrog, and D-Styles, plus DJ Flare), in order to revive the four “lost arts” of hip-hop culture: break-dancing, rapping, graffiti, and, of course, skratching.
Q-Bert’s CD is a concept album, each track furthering the story of the Dental Commander’s quest. This film is unique in that it’s the first time such a concept album has been portrayed on-screen in sync — or in this case, skratch for skratch — in its entirety. The film does such an excellent job of doing this, in fact, it’s difficult to imagine the CD’s narrative making any sense without this accompanying film.
Quest movies are as old as cinema itself, although I bet none have looked quite like this one. Every style of animation, from traditional cell animation to 3D to live action to photo collage, is represented here, making this film a funkadelic feast for the eyes. The film is also jammed with pop culture references. Some are subtle and fleeting, like the flashes of messages we see on bumper stickers. Others are pointed and obvious; riffs on Napster and Metallica, the classic “Asteroids” video game, and, of course, “Star Wars.”
While a little skratching goes a long way, for this reviewer, others obviously will feel differently; especially fans of Q-Bert and/or this album. Regardless, “Wave Twisters” is so cool to look at, it’s definitely worth seeing, especially on the big screen, whether you’re a hip-hop afficionado or not, although fans will definitely dig it more.