Sockbaby (2004-2008) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Sockbaby (2004-2008)

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To kill the heart of GodBits of culture seem destined to become in-jokes for a select few.  This isn't (entirely) out of privilege, but the sheer luck of being in the right place to receive the good just as they're delivered.  The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one of those gems, a surreal and magnificently directed comedy for kids which only seemed to air in the hours kids aren't awake.  You can also put MTV's Liquid Television in this category, which helped acquaint me to the likes of Aeon Flux and the works of Bill Plympton.

The only reason I know about Sockbaby is through one sentence my friend Kristen uttered when I worked at University Cinemas in Normal, IL.  Sockbaby wasn't nearly as prominent as Fensler Films' G.I. Joe shorts or "Numa Numa", but it was the most important in forming my sense of humor and finding short films to watch.  I revisit it every few months and it's every bit as fresh and fun as it was when I was a lad of 20.

Sockbaby fueled much of my waking existence for a significant period of life.  Jacob, similarly infected with the Sockbaby bug, and I would quote from it constantly.  Our days at the movie theater transcended to, "Hello Jacob," "Hello Andrew," "How we doin' today?" "Hello, what's with no hello," "We're un-Hello now."  My love of Sockbaby transitioned to the most obscure Halloween costume I've ever put together.  Folks I came across thought I was dressed as a pimp and never questioned the stuffed sock with drawn features I had cradled in my arms.  I adore Sockbaby more than most major films of the last few years.Ronnie, Burger, 'n BabyMy love for Sockbaby endures while so many of the other hot bits of internet entertainment have fallen by the wayside.  The biggest reason for this is directors Douglas TenNapel and John Soares determination to create their own world budget be damned.  Few of the props and costumes in Sockbaby would be difficult to recreate, and when the more elaborate special effects shine through in part 2 and 3, they're integrated into this world that's set up its own form of kooky internal logic.  Sockbaby is no-budget filmmaking at its best, showing how firm dedication to a concept is more than enough to overcome financial limitations.

Another ace in Sockbaby's deck comes from the fantastic fight choreography courtesy of Soares.  It still comes as a shock to see Ronnie Cordova (Soares) bust into some serious martial arts shenanigans so soon after an absurd conversation about the need to take care of Sockbaby with Ronnie's cyborg friend Burger (Cody Spurlock).  As Ronnie does battle with the underwhelmingly named Davis (Uriel Padilla) the editing and sound effects mesh together with Soares' choreography to create fights that recall the cartoonish intensity of Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Journey to the West).  The high point for these fights comes in part 2 when Ronnie is overwhelmed by a group of alien greys and the action shifts effortlessly around and in an automobile Ronnie's defending.  My favorite is the close-up of Ronnie's face as he utters, "Oh criminey" and is dragged out of the car to fight.

Even the dialogue is great fun.  Soares puts a lot of energy into Ronnie's boasts, "Go tell your alien brothers - that Ronnie Cordova says they're gay!"  Lines like that could be read negatively, but in context they're amusingly limp retorts that aren't as cool as Ronnie's style and fighting abilities.  This is reinforced later when the uber-cool Ronnie struts off triumphantly only to step in dog doo.  Burger's lines are funny because of how nonplussed Spurlock makes the cyborg, and there's the added fun touch of how all Burger's movements - no matter how small - are synced with mechanical sounds.You're my gold, dadA few years after Sockbaby wrapped a fourth entry was made and it just wasn't quite the same.  There's a lot to like about it from an expanded role for Burger to play and Doug Jones (one of Guillermo del Toro's favorites) as a villainous version of himself.  But those fights, while still excellent choreographed, lost something when blood starts splurting out of the opponents Ronnie eviscerates, going so far as to stick one opponent's hand in a blender.  At the same time, I am the one who compares Sockbaby to Stephen Chow's work, and there is a significant uptick in menace while keeping the cartoony vibe from Shaolin Soccer to Kung Fu Hustle.  It's natural part 4 of Sockbaby would do the same.

After Sockbaby, Soares went on to reteam with Jones for the excellent Danger Element, and now works at DreamWorks Animation.  TenNapel is employed at the same after a career of other awesome works like Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood.  Much like how it felt I was one of a handful of people who knew what Sockbaby was, I also seemed to be the sole owner of every Earthworm Jim action figure I could get my hands on.

But those are just objects, and nothing compares to the enthusiasm I feel when I get to introduce Sockbaby to someone new.  I wanted to start writing about short films because of how disillusioned I've become with feature-length reviews.  By revisiting my love of Sockbaby and, hopefully, inspiring a few of you to give it a watch I'm recharged by the power of a tight entertainment that makes me as happy now as it did a decade ago.

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Posted by Andrew

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