Feb 23, 2015

Review: Rejected (2000)

Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected is a certifiable cult classic. It gained a large following from its many film festival showings and it's the kind of thing that's commonly referenced in popular culture. I've seen a couple of Hertzfeldt animated shorts and my opinion is that they're definitely pretty out there. Not in a bad way or anything though, they're just very different and he always uses this simplistic stick-figure-on-paper kind of animation that's supposed to bring attention to what's being said and not necessarily what's being shown.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2000, Dutch short Father and Daughter won that category and for good reason. It's a great little short that packs a pretty big emotional punch along with some pretty visuals. Still, Rejected is the short that has lived far beyond its awards season and release year. Does that make it the better film?


Genre: animated, short, comedy
Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt
Produced by: Don Hertzfeldt
Written by: Don Hertzfeldt
Music by: N/A
Running time: 9 minutes
Production company: Bitter Films
Distributed by: N/A
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Robert May, Jennifer Nyholm, Don Hertzfeldt



Don Hertzfeldt has been commissioned to do commercials for the Family Learning Channel as well as the Johnson & Mills Corporation. Every single one is rejected as being too outlandish for airing. This results in Hertzfeldt slowly losing his grip on reality and creating increasingly bizarre attempts. 


The film is split up into different sketches each with their own wacky characters such as Fluffy Guy and Banana, saying all sorts of zany things. Essentially, Rejected is a critique on commercials being lies. Hertzfeldt has expressed anti-corporate sentiments in appearances following the release of Rejected and that's cool. The goal of Rejected is to come up with the most awful commercials possible for a company and you can definitely say mission accomplished there.

The problem for me is that I don't really find Rejected all that humourous. I can sympathize with the message that's being said, but I found the jokes eye-brow raising more than laugh-inducing. I know that's something completely subjective, but I was still disappointed. Rejected had supposedly become this popular culture mainstay, even years later. Was I missing something?

However, one aspect of Rejected that is absolutely phenomenal is the climactic sequence where the fictional Don Hertzfeldt in the short becomes totally unhinged. (Spoilers) All the animated characters from commercials that he's created get destroyed as the world they live in gets crushed. (End Spoilers) It's just a brilliant sequence of literal falling skies and crumpling paper that shouldn't be missed.

I should also mention that as a whole, the use of sound in Rejected is very well done and feels of very good quality. It's enough to give Hertzfeldt's simple animation design some real weight and oomph. 

Even if one can't really appreciate Rejected for its humour like myself, you can't not admire its triumph in animation at the very end. I still can't get over how amazingly well done that scene is from an animation standpoint and it's clear that even though Hertzfeldt is content in keeping everything simple on the surface, he has some legitimate animation talent. The ending sequence of Rejected alone is worth its Best Animated Short nomination. I just wish I could've appreciated the humour more.



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