A pioneer of alternative comedy and star of numerous Generation X cultural touchstones, Janeane Garofalo possessed a voice for the ages. Literally and metaphorically the voice of a generation, her sarcastic, vulnerable, over it, and overwhelmed timbre was so definitive to the ‘90s that a lot of people thought she provided the voice of Daria on Daria. She didn’t, but more than two decades removed from her zeitgeist-defining days, Garofalo finally gives voice to an animated version of her persona in the form of Debora, the protagonist and focus of Lava, a futuristic movie about present-day themes.


Who else could play Debora, a character clearly based on the prevailing notion of ‘90s-era Garofalo, than Garofalo herself? The character is a jaded, underachieving tattoo artist, a perfect mixture of the most stereotyped negative qualities of a Generation-Xer and a Millennial. Debora is the starting point for some Rick and Mortystyle sci-fi weirdness as well as some cutting social satire. 


One night, Debora invites over her crew of equally unfulfilled, emotionally stunted, and immature adults over to watch the immensely popular Peak TV series Gain of Clones, an obvious parody of Game of Thrones, except it involves giant vegetables (presaging the events of the film itself while also suggesting a Thrones variant that sounds way better than what it’s teasing). Suddenly, Debora, her friends, and the rest of the known world watching Gain of Clones, or anything else on any sort of screen, be it a phone, smart TV, or big-screen movie, lose two minutes of their lives, falling into a collective trance because of a subliminal message full of images of death and destruction.


That message came from a hostile race of aliens who, in the tradition of alien races in all forms of fiction, wish to destroy the Earth and everything and everyone on it. The shape-shifting beings arrive as giant cats, giant snakes, and towering pyro-kinetic witches, who easily arrive and take over with absolutely no resistance because most all of humanity is too busy, distracted and entranced by every screen on the planet capturing their attention with those subliminal messages. It’s up to the unlikely, unqualified, unprepared, and probably unsuccessful Debora and her friends to figure out how to resist the alien mind control pull and Make Earth Great Again.


The message her is a little obvious and ham-fisted — the world so lost in what’s going on with their phones is a clear metaphor for widespread smartphone dependence, and how this technological development of the last decade is bad, and prevents us all from enjoying an authentic experience, or, taken to its absurd height, noticing even the most catastrophic events taking place around us. Nevertheless, the English dub of Ayar Blasco’s strictly for adults Spanish-language animated feature that met with a glowing reception at the Annecy Contrechamp Animation Film Festival, is a fun, well-plotted movie with recognizable and familiar characters that revels in its chaos, and Garofalo is as sharp and engaging as ever. Distracting oneself from horrific world events by staring at Lava on their phone, tablet, or laptop sounds like an ideal and self-consciously ironic way to spend an evening.


Lava is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Fandango, and Vimeo on Demand.