Despite being the land of opportunity, America offers many real-life examples to the contrary. Even the dream factory of Los Angeles has a reputation to chew up and spit out the masses that come to seek wealth and prosperity. In 2008, a six-episode cartoon that was confined to the cutting room floor was repackaged into a feature film about the undying pursuit of the American Dream in Immigrants (L.A. Dolce Vita).
A Russian Immigrant, Vlad, and a Hungarian immigrant, Joska, come to L.A. to enjoy the tantalising opportunity that America has on tap. The only issue is they are both illegal immigrants, limiting their prospects greatly. Lacking the material resources, they must use their acumen and their broken understanding of American culture to find lucrative pursuits, often coming from the more outrageous elements of the city. The film follows their exploits, as their heart, ambition, and naive interpretation of the laws lead to avenues of promised wealth but may turn out only to be Pyrite.
After reading that plot description, you might think that it sounds somewhat similar to Grand Theft Auto IV with less of an focus on the criminal element, and you can see some strong similarities between the two attempts. The satirical vein, of outsiders looking in at the excessive contradictions of American society, is as rich as ever, yet Immigrants does come at the subject with a somewhat different approach. The philosophical clashes are at the heart of the film, Joska’s championing of the small enterprise, when Vlad gets a job at Glut-co (read Cost-co) leading to Joska starting his successful stall, right outside Glut-co. Vlad being a single father, wanting to raise a daughter not taken in by the L.A. excesses is a familiar concept, with her being embarrassed by the degrading jobs her father has to perform for the L.A. elite. The apartment complex where they live is also home to fellow immigrants, offering a collection of characters all over the globe, lending further credence to the Immigrants title.
Some of you might recognise the name Gábor Csupó, especially if you are a fan of animation from the 1990s. Also lending his distinguished vocal talents is Hank Azaria, but only if you are watching the English dub, as do the names Lauren Tom, Freddy Rodriguez and even guest appearances from the likes of Quinton Flynn and Dan Castellaneta. While the six episodes never did get aired, so seeing them combined into this film is a triumph, and the transition is practically seamless. With 120 minutes of fun animation gags, and exaggerated depictions of mid-2000s L.A., from the celebs, the fashion, and the distinctive scenery all done in Csupó’s style.
While strategic repositioning forced the network to go in a new direction and shelve the project along with most of the animated line-up. The fact that the final product can be seen, even in an unintended style, is a pleasing conclusion. The animated satire offers fun visual gags, and jabs at the increasingly stark paradoxes of American society, yet stills retains that almost timeless charms of Csupó’s animation style. If you are a fan of animation and can put yourself back in the mindset of the 2000s, Immigrants offers a slice of the good life.
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