Sick, twisted shameless stupid fun 

What: Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation

Where: Rainbow Theatre

When: Dec. 26-Jan. 4

Tickets: $10

If the Rainbow Theatre staff is reading this right now, I have a suggestion for an addition to the concession menu - cereal.

That's right, start stocking up on Corn Pops and Honeycomb and Fruit Loops because there could be no better complement to Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation. The shameless celebration of cartoon stupidity will bring you back to those days when you woke up Saturday morning at 6 a.m., grabbed a box, a bowl and a carton of milk, and watched whatever was on until your parents came down and told you to go play outside.

This is not to say the Spike & Mike series is a celebration of childhood innocence. Au contraire. As fans of the festival, which began back in 1990, are well aware these cartoons deserve their adjectives and their 18+ rating. They're more black lace teddy than padded-foot Pooh Bear pyjamas. So leave your children at home, they won't be allowed in anyway.

But bring along your inner child. You're going to want them in the seat with you. Spike & Mike 'toons bring back the stupid joy of stupid drawings and figurines, with stupid expressions talking stupid dialogue, set to insanity-inducing theme music and 1950s space-deco art direction. They're pixie sticks for the brain and you're not going to like 'em if you only eat steamed vegetables and organic tofu.

There are heaps of the true definition of cartoon violence. Those who can't appreciate the satirical Itchy & Scratchy cartoon within a cartoon on The Simpsons or the deranged direction of Ren & Stimpy should stay away. In fact, stay away if you like your cartoons happy and shiny featuring audience tested characters with celebrity voices. Stay away if watching a Teletubby get shot down by a sniper is going to keep you up at night. Stay away if you blanche at the thought of balloons getting revenge on their dopey baby caretakers.

Admittedly there are a couple of features that step over the line of silliness into a territory that supports a more malicious kind of violence. A babysitter in drag purees his charge for one, and a stop action piece features children's dolls in the mould of Larry Clark film teenagers. But in the grand scheme of things they're unable to spread their poison over the entire lot. They're over before they begin and audience members are all the better for it.

On the other side of the coin there are a few features that could actually be considered philosophically intriguing. A man is trapped under a rock he is pushing up a hill while on the other side of the hill lies another man in exactly the same predicament - an exploration of the futility of the weapons race?

There's even something for the Aussies - Cane Toad is set down unda' and features a straight-talking, likeable bloke musing on what became of his toad mate. And for fans of Claymation there are hilarious traditional superheroes the Ninjews - a half ninja/half Rabbi duo, protecting their people from non-Kosher foe.

The prankster side of the festival rears its head with the spectre of 3D. The poster suggests the need for 3D glasses, however their use is a gag rather than a requirement. Wait until prompted to put them on, and be prepared to groan.

But also be prepared to laugh the way you used to laugh when the sheep dog pounded the wolf on Bugs Bunny as all part of a day's wage. Then go play outside or something, that stuff will rot your brain.

Spike & Mike's 2003 Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation plays at the Rainbow Theatre nightly until Jan. 4. Call 604-932-2422 for information.

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