Review: John K’s Cans Without Labels

cans without labels index

Back in 2012 John Kricfalusi, best known for being the man behind Ren and Stimpy, started a Kickstarter to fund a new animation and he managed to raise $136,723. But then silence fell for many a year, and even worse than that were the accusations that he had been in a sexual relationship with a fourteen year old girl, and many thought that he’d never work again. Now he’s finally delivered upon his Kickstarter promise with the release of Cans Without Labels, though it appears that most wish he hadn’t bothered and I’m definitely among them.

It leaked on to youtube briefly before being taken down but even in that short time it was met by dismay, with even those who were able to ignore his personal life being disgusted with it, with comments like “The whole bunk of the video is in very poor taste and I would not be surprised to see many of the project’s backers asking for a refund. This is simply a VERY awful cartoon” and “I officially nominate him for “worst director of all-time”! Your gags suck. Your timing sucks. Your writing sucks. Your performances suck” being among the more positive things said about it.

I have a very difficult time when it comes to “Separating the art from the artist”, a debate which some are passionate about and offer up a good few opposing views, but while watching it I did my best to ignore all of the many unpleasant elements of the man’s character. I was a fan of Ren and Stimpy back in the day too, and with all comedy I go in hoping to enjoy it, but this just wasn’t possible as it’s such a gigantic mess. Supposedly based on a true story, George Liquor (Mike Pataki, who died in 2010, which goes to show how long this has been in production) explains to his nephews Slab (Eric Bauza) and Ernie (Gabe Swarr) that he has cans without labels that he buys cheaply to save a buck. Of course he doesn’t know what’s in the cans but George claims he has a system with each can giving clues, though of course he gets it wrong and what he thinks is a can of beef stew just has a face in it instead. The kids are appalled but are forced to eat it, but when George nips off for a shit they grab Cigarettes The Cat (Eddie Fitzgerald) and try and fail to make him devour it, but fortunately for them someone then comes along who might just help them out.

As you can see the story’s a flimsy one but that shouldn’t necessarily have prevented it from being funny. Unfortunately the script is equally as weak, there’s one vaguely amusing line in it when George exclaims “I guess we’re having a face for lunch” but the rest are cringeworthy ones. Action wise it has a bit of scatological humour which is tiresome and nothing you won’t have seen countless times before, a spoof of Donald Duck in the form of Donald Bastard which is as unimaginative and as unfunny as that sounds, a fair bit of dull violence from both George and Donald, and a couple of glimpses of arses (one of which lasts for about five seconds and is particularly grim) which might amuse any three year olds watching but surely no one else.

It also looks quite horrid, John K’s trademark animation style isn’t an issue (though it’s undoubtedly tired and lazy) but it’s mixed in with some awful CGI, of the kind that anyone who’s played around with photoshop for a couple of hours could probably do better. The animation is surprisingly bland too, full of exaggerated facial expressions which become quickly monotonous to watch, it’s as if John K thought that character’s pulling silly faces would be enough to make people laugh and didn’t bother doing anything else. There’s also a lot of repetition which suggests he couldn’t be arsed putting much effort in to it, and it just feels like a lazy rehash of his previous work.

That it cost $136,723 is quite astonishing, I can only presume that most of the money went on living costs rather than the animation itself, and I’d be amazed if anyone who backed it was happy with the result. If you didn’t back the kickstarter you can buy it from his site for twenty five dollars, which is a ridiculously insulting amount for a short ten minute animation of this poor quality, and I truly hope that anyone considering doing so reads this review first and doesn’t waste their money on such crap.

Alex Finch.
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