Film festivals like Sundance draw top tier directors and the finest actors, but they’re also a great space for branching out of your comfort zone and trying something different. Cryptozoo is going to be so different, apparently, that the programmer compliments us on our “adventurous taste” before we’ve even seen the film.
Writer-director Dash Shaw impressed Matt at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2016 with his entry, My Entire High School Is Sinking Into The Sea. This year I’m just grateful he’s given us a shorter title to remember.
Cryptozoo is a strange beast, which is funny considering it’s literally about mythical hybrid creatures whose existence is disputed or unsubstantiated. Lauren (voiced by Lake Bell) doesn’t just believe in them, she collects them, having dedicated her life to rescuing them and sheltering them in a zoo she hopes will challenge public perception and move the dial toward acceptance once it’s open. For years she’s been pursing a Baku, a dream-eating creature that looks like a cross between a baby elephant and the neon-painted spirit animals from Coco. Of course, lots of Lauren’s work is battling the other factions who would also like to get their hands on these creatures, for exploitation or worse.
Hand drawn (translation: wonky boobs) and distinctively animated, Cryptozoo isn’t just populated with gorgeous, fantastical beasts and imaginative hybrid humans, it’s got people at the heart of its story, people with good intentions who will debate the merits of displaying these mythical creatures versus helping them to remain hidden and unknown.
This animated film for adults takes on the complexities of utopian visions and explores them in a very spirited and penetrating manner, with a visual style that is vibrant and unusual. A strong voice cast including Jason Schwartzman, Michael Cera, Grace Zabriskie, Peter Stomare, Zoe Kazan, Louisa Krause, and Angeliki Papoulia, breathe life into an epic fantasy world that starts with sex and unicorns and ends in a place much more wondrous. If you yourself are strange and unusual, Cryptozoo is not to be missed.