Mockumentary Hitler's Folly, at only an hour long, stretches its incredibly thin premise over a surface area the size of the European front. Its single, exhausting joke: Hitler, a misunderstood artist, actually built a Disney-style animation empire that was mistaken for a fascist regime.
Bill Plympton is a singularly gifted artist and animator, and the film includes many of his beautiful drawings and paintings. So it's surprising to see so many amateurish touches, including lazily Photoshopped headlines in contemporary fonts over pictures of old newspapers. Often, Plympton hasn't bothered to find high-resolution images for his Ken Burns–style photo pans, zooming in on pixelated, low-resolution photos that look derived from Google Image Search.
The film tells its absurd fabrications with the same straight-faced obstinacy of a drunk at a bar who insists that he was in the army special forces and clearly wants you to take a swing at him: “The Nazis started as an animation film club!” “The Nuremberg Rallies were comic-book conventions!” And Hitler's massive, hubristic overreach was, rather than an attempt to conquer the world, the production of a four-hour animated film of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen with funny cartoon animals.
Stanley Kubrick knew that satire alone isn't funny — you need funny lines delivered by talented comic actors. Here's what passes for a joke in Hitler's Folly: They were called “concentration camps” because Hitler's animators were concentrating so hard. There's just no fun in watching a filmmaker of Plympton's caliber repeatedly swat at the side of a barn just because he can.
Hitler's Folly will be available for free streaming at plymptoons.com on Friday, June 3.