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Written by: Bill Plympton
Directed by: Bill Plympton
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 76
Date: 04/17/2015

Cheatin' (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Untrue Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bill Plympton (The Tune, I Married a Strange Person, Hair High, etc.) is certainly one of the greatest animated cartoon makers in the world today, taking full advantage of the liquidity of the medium, with his twitchy pencil sketches and watercolors bending and twisting and morphing into just about anything. Cheatin' — his sixth feature film, not counting his shorts compilation Mondo Plympton — is perhaps his most ambitious and visually impressive work yet, even if its story and themes are a little more down-to-earth than we might expect from this strange visionary.

It tells the story of a strapping man, Jake, who rescues a beautiful woman, Ella, from a near-fatal bumper car accident. They fall in love and marry, but they each worry about the fidelity of the other. A jealous woman stages a photograph, making it look as if Ella is disrobing in front of a group of men, but they are really just mannequins (Ella thinks she's in a department store changing room). Jake responds by sleeping with any woman that comes along. A distraught Ella hires a hitman to off her husband, then meets a magician whose special machine has the power to transfer her soul into the body of any of her husband's lovers.

The movie works better when depicting free-flowing emotions than plot twists. Jake and Ella's marital song-and-dance is quite dazzling, as is the lustful way a neighbor tries to flirt with Jake by allowing her laundry to blow into his yard. Nothing beats the movie's first reel, introducing a promenading, book-reading Ella coveted by males up and down the street, which leads up to the daring bumper-car rescue. Perhaps someday Plympton will figure out how to make an entire feature-length film that sustains this kind of free-spirited, emotional storytelling. For now, though, Cheatin' has enough good stuff to make it worthwhile.

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