I have watched many strange animated films, but none as peculiar as Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver’s Asphalt Watches. The film yields a Gonzo-esque experience – not that I’m advocating drug use, but their employment might make for a more sensible experience than watching sober.
Instead of making a documentary about their eight-day hitchhiking trip across Canada, the two filmmakers decided to recount their adventure via animation; however, it’s incredibly difficult to believe that anything described in Asphalt Watches occurred in reality.
The characters, which include the ghost of a snowman and a Wendy’s-loving Santa Claus, are absolutely bizarre. The settings are incredibly surreal and the score consists of a ridiculously slow rap, not by talented musicians, but taken from the main characters’ words. One song is called “Don’t Forget Your Boston Pizza.”
Despite the fact that the picture is absolutely insane, it just isn’t thrilling. Asphalt Watches has a 94-minute running time, but it feels over twice that length. The plot is overdrawn. Its bizarre stoner humour does get some laughs, but ultimately I didn’t find it very enjoyable. It’s unfortunate because you can tell the directors put a lot of time and effort into creating the film. Working with flash animation is tedious, as is putting the incredible amount of detail into every scene.
On the brightside, Asphalt Watches is rather inspiring. It’s a unique animation experience that you won’t find anywhere else. It takes imagination to its limits, showing that creativity has no boundaries and is not chained to reality.
It’s a refreshing change from the standard Disney, DreamWorks, and Studio Ghibli movies that often get a wide release in North America and around the world. While I’m certain Ehman and Scriver’s work won’t get a wide release, at least not in major theatres, I would encourage many people to see it, despite it not being outstanding. This is an art house picture, and like many art house pictures it will inspire intelligent discussions regarding its merit.
Check out more of Michael’s reviews at goodbadcritic.blogspot.ca, and catch a screening of Asphalt Watches at Cinematheque (100 Arthur Street) on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m., as well as Thursday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m.
Best Canadian First Feature Film Award at TIFF 2013