In the introduction to his film, Bill Plympton says that he hopes the audience has a sense of humor. Unfortunately, if the audience does have a sense of humor, they probably won’t like his new film, Hitler’s Folly.
Structured like a mockumentary, Hitler’s Folly stands in direct contrast to the rest of Plympton’s films. Plympton is a two-time Academy Award nominated animator. The movies that he makes are animations. Hitler’s Folly is not an animation. It is a mockumentary that attempts to ask the question of ‘What would have happened if Hitler had gotten into art school?’ The realistic answer is that he wouldn’t have gotten into politics, however the movie creates an alternate reality where Hitler wasn’t trying to take over the world – he was just trying to secure distribution rights to his new film.
At one point in Hitler’s Folly, there is a comparison made to The Producers. The movie takes place through the eyes of Josh (Dana Ashbrook), a character-vehicle who is making a documentary about the real story of Hitler while Nazis bang on his door. Josh is regretting making this documentary, and laments that no one ever bothered Mel Brooks, referring to “Springtime for Hitler”. The only difference is that The Producers didn’t take “Springtime for Hitler” seriously. Hitler’s Folly is like an hour-long version of “Springtime for Hitler”, except that there’s no fun, cleverness or opportunity for cross-cutting.
Occasionally, there are a few chuckles, but by and large the movie thinks it is a lot funnier than it actually is. At its best, Hitler’s Folly is a little cute. At its worst, Hitler’s Folly is downright worrying. The film would be a lot more effective if it were making fun of Hitler, or creating some new, interesting arc. Instead, the movie makes Hitler a comic book nerd – only the film is made from the perspective of a comic book nerd. It is sympathetic to Hitler, and focuses its energy on trying to poke fun at the film industry… with limited success. Hitler’s Folly seems desperate to explain that it’s not offensive, it’s society that’s gone too PC. Unfortunately, this argument doesn’t exactly work when the movie isn’t even telling any jokes.
One of the most obvious flaws of the film is that it relies too much on narration and not enough on animation. Bill Plympton is a legendary animator, but there is hardly any animation in Hitler’s Folly (despite the Walt Disney comparison it is trying to make). Given the movie’s current state, almost any restructuring of the film would be an improvement, and it would be interesting if the movie spent less time trying to forge a coexistent reality and more time actually delivering on its premise.
This becomes especially clear when the reenactments and fake interviews get started. Some of them look like they took time and effort, and they feel out of place considering the film’s haphazard vehicle. This creates a strange disconnect, and the movie ends up feeling like a random assortment of strange ideas.
Hitler’s Folly was released for free on YouTube by Plympton. This is probably because it is so out of his wheelhouse, and feels more like an experiment than something he put a lot of effort into. Plympton says in both the intro and outro to the film that Hollywood would never make this movie. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s important to have someone to say ‘no’.