A Year in Shorts Day 290: "Stubble Trouble"

Look folks, I’m just going to level with you. I have no idea how to introduce this short. No clever insights, no fun connections, no personal anecdotes. It doesn’t hold an important place in film history, nor does it inspire a strong emotional response from me. I suppose if I knew more about animation I might be able to discuss that here, but that sounds an awful lot like work. So let’s just cut to the chase and talk about Stubble Trouble without any of the usual bells and whistles, alright?

(via IMDb)

Released in 2000 and directed by Joseph E. Meredith, Stubble Trouble is another fairly obscure short for us at The Great Oscar Baiter. So once again I find myself with the strange responsibility of writing perhaps the most substantive piece of criticism (such as it is) on the film we're covering. Which is a little tricky because, as the first paragraph no doubt indicated, there's not really a whole lot to say about this one. It's not bad, mind you; in fact it's pretty entertaining. But it's a pretty straightforward film, which makes it difficult. Still, I suppose we can at least start with the premise. Told entirely without dialogue, Stubble Trouble follows an unnamed caveman on the quest to find himself a lady friend (aren't we all?), but find his best efforts thwarted by his unruly facial hair. (I would argue that his lack of success probably has more to do with his short stature and lack of musculature, especially considering this is a time in which the most important traits in a prospective mate would be physical strength and an ability to provide, but what do I know? It's a cartoon, not a documentary.) Heartbroken and desperate to get laid, our hero does everything he can to get rid of the Brillo Pad he calls a face, but finds his stubble a great deal more stubborn than he anticipated.

All things considered, Stubble Trouble is not a particularly remarkable short. Its story is fairly unremarkable, and its gags are more amusing than they are funny. (There are really only so many variations you can do with a guy trying and failing to shave, after all.) Still, there are certainly worse things a film can be than simply amusing. It's not a particularly high bar to strive for, but at least it clears it. When compared to shorts like Strange Invaders or Fifty Percent Grey, both of which were competing against Stubble Trouble for Best Animated Short that year, it doesn't look too bad. Those films may have been a little more ambitious, sure, but they were also considerably less fun to watch. And aside from that, I do have to give Stubble Trouble some points for style. The animation- done to resemble drawings on a cave wall- is cleverly executed, and it gives the film an aesthetic that sets it apart from a lot of similar cartoons. It may not be a lot, but it definitely elevates Stubble Trouble to a level that's above "just ok", and certainly helps justify its Oscar nomination in my book. While in theory the Oscars should recognize the films that are actually the best of their year, we know that's rarely the case. Too often studio politics, box office numbers and aggressive campaigning carries the day. But with the Best Animated Short category, there seems to be a little less of that. While they might not pick the best shorts of that year, they can at least generally be counted on to pick films that did something interesting. Stubble Trouble may be a humble little film, but it's at least got something unique going for it, and it manages to not be annoying or offensive or so long that it overstays its welcome. And while we should always hope for more, sometimes it's ok to settle for what we get.

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