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The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus the Aardvark (2021) Review

Yes, the actual title of this film is The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus the Aardvark rather than the simple and more to the point Cerebus the Aardvark. Which is also the name of the film’s source material.

For those not familiar with the character, Cerebus the Aardvark is an anthropomorphic aardvark who was the central character of the comic of the same name that ran from December 1977 until March 2004. Written and drawn by Dave Sim the title started out as a parody of Conan the Barbarian before becoming more serious and controversial as time went on as Sim’s rather strange religious and political beliefs, as well as his misogynistic views of gender roles, became a larger part of the storylines.

In 2006 Oliver Simonsen decided that Cerebus the Aardvark deserved a film adaptation. Despite having no backing, animation team, or rights to the character, he started production. All he had was Sim’s saying he was free to do it, but he doubted he would approve its release, not exactly encouraging circumstances. After fifteen years of work by Simonsen and a team of volunteer animators, Sim surprisingly gave his approval to the finished film.

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As the film opens Cerebus (John Di Crosta, A Wrestling Christmas Miracle, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) is locked in a confrontation with Necross the Mad (Michael Petranech, End of Fall, The Legend of Mortamuth Stanley) a typically evil sorcerer out to destroy the universe. The film then abruptly shifts back to earlier in the day as we see how this showdown came about.

Arriving in town and heading straight for the nearest tavern our intrepid aardvark gets into a brawl and impresses brothers G’ar and T’ar (both voiced by Yuell Newsome) who promptly hire him to steal a magical jewel from the wizard Maki (Stephen Mendel, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Late Night Girls). Saying things do not go smoothly would be an understatement, as Cerebus manages to fragment not just his own destiny, but reality itself.

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While I remember seeing issues of Cerebus the Aardvark in comic stores, and I’m sure I browsed through a few, I never followed the comic, so I can’t make any kind of comparison between it and the source material. It also means I had a hard time figuring out what was going on at several points, as there isn’t much in the way of backstory to the characters or the world they inhabit. The narration and occasional text helped, but it wasn’t always enough.

What I did catch were several references to real-world celebrities worked into Cerebus the Aardvark’s adventures, such as Prince Mick and Prince Keef (both voiced by Jim Johnson) who look extraordinary like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And to fantasy figures such as Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, who becomes Elrod the Albino (Jeff Seiler). The mostly unknown voice actors do a rather good job in their roles. The only name I recognized was Georgina Leahy who had a very small but eyecatching appearance in Monster Party.

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The animation, as you may have guessed from the fact that this is a no-budget film, is not exactly on a level with Pixar or Disney. In fact, its quality varies quite about throughout the course of the film. But I’ll take Cerebus the Aardvark’s best effort CGI over the motion comic animation of films like To Your Last Death any day. And I suppose that obviously rough around the edges look is fitting for an adaptation of an independent comic whose creator turned down offers from several major comic publishers and animation houses over the years.

In the end, The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical, and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus the Aardvark is a watchable, but at least to this outsider, not an essential bit of fantasy cinema. Fans of the comic and those more into animation than I am will probably find more to hold their attention. And it certainly deserves notice for the amount of effort put into its creation.

The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphysical, and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus the Aardvark is available on various Digital platforms including Tubi, where I saw it. You can check the film or the director’s Facebook pages for more details. And if you’re looking for more absurd, surreal, and metaphysical viewing, FilmTagger may have what you’re looking for.

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