Rob Brydon is, to say the least, a man of many voices. His formidable talent for accents and impressions has been a major part of his success, notably with the voiceover work that kicked off his career. It is therefore no surprise that even in “The Trip,” a film so jam-packed with little eccentricities and running jokes, his constant vocal antics become one of the most effective and memorable elements. From his Michael Caine throwdown with Steve Coogan to the incessant lapses into Hugh Grant or Sean Connery, Brydon brings his A-game. Consequently, it seems fitting to take a look at some of his earliest vocal work.
“Body Beautiful” is a wonderful animated short in which Brydon voices four separate characters. Released in 1991, it’s one of Brydon’s earliest credits, when he was still working primarily in Wales (the film won a Welsh BAFTA). Directed by talented animator Joanna Quinn, it’s the story of an overweight woman named Beryl who faces an upcoming talent show with dread. Brydon’s biggest part is Vince, the disgusting and obnoxious guy down at the plant who harasses all the women and makes Beryl feel even worse. Yet in a moment of inspiration she finds a more productive outlet for her frustration, and we’re off and running on a hilarious journey of self-discovery and animated victory.
The animation, in a way, reminds me of the musical effect I discussed last week regarding the “Blind Pilots” video. Both music videos and animated shorts tend to easily shift between reality and imagination, possessing a natural fluidity that frees them from the narrative and representational constraints of mimicking the authentic world. This is not to say that live action films are somehow incapable of jumping into fantasy, but there’s an effortlessness with which a film like “Body Beautiful” jumps around from Beryl’s dull factory experience and into her dreams. The universe can change with just one squiggle, after all.
Joanna Quinn also uses the unique capabilities of her form to achieve abstraction with the characters themselves, allowing her to more effectively discuss ideas of body image and female empowerment. The animated forms of Quinn’s factory workers shift and expand before our eyes, moving between how they really look and how they perceive themselves. It’s an articulation of the gap in self-image, which culminates in the “Body Beautiful” contest at the end of the short. Beryl, in struggling with her weight and her identity, achieves something quite special.
Brydon, on the other hand, just shows off his impressive vocal skills. Voicing Vince, Mr. Otaka, Beryl’s husband and then her trainer, the actor takes almost every male role in the short. Keep an ear out for him and take a look at the film, here in two parts.