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film review
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Cryptozookeepers try to capture a Baku, a dream-eating hybrid creature of legend, in Cryptozoo.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

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  • Cryptozoo
  • Written and directed by Dash Shaw
  • Featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Alex Karpovsky
  • Classification R; 95 minutes
  • Available on demand, including digital TIFF Lightbox, starting Aug. 20

Adult-targeted animation is a tricky genre to nail. Although, I suppose the existence of Adult Swim, the Cartoon Network’s mature-targeted block of programming that’s spawned a genre unto itself, proves that there’s a burgeoning market and a wealth of gonzo-minded talent. If the words “Adult Swim” are completely foreign to you, though, then you likely won’t get much out of Cryptozoo, writer-director Dash Shaw’s endlessly trippy comedy/fantasy/drama featuring all manner of animated chaos.

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The cryptozookeepers start wondering if they should display these beasts or keep them hidden and unknown.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

After debuting at this past January’s Sundance Film Festival, Shaw’s film scored acclaim for its defiantly hand-drawn animation – especially striking in an era of all-CGI-all-the-time cartoons. But its narrative substance – a plot involving mythical creatures, evil game hunters, and kind-hearted scientists hoping to preserve the natural order – felt like a prototypical Sundance indie pumped full of fantastical steroids.

There is a certain charm to Shaw’s deadpan comedy – and I genuinely appreciated what I can only assume was an intentional callback to Michael Cera’s fate in 2013′s This Is the End – but one visit to the Cryptozoo was enough for me.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.