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Review: Whimsy and menace in this 'Toys' story

Politics come into play in the visually delightful 'Toys in the Attic.'

September 06, 2012|By Sheri Linden
  • A scene from "Toys in the Attic."
A scene from "Toys in the Attic." (Handout )

The stop-motion action is nonstop and deliriously bent in "Toys in the Attic," a 2009 Czech feature that has been retrofitted with an English-language voice cast led by Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack and Cary Elwes.

Jiri Barta's blend of live action and handmade and computer effects puts a "Toy Story" slant on "The Perils of Pauline" by way of "1984" and any number of dystopian nightmares. But the plot is the least of it in a film whose transporting aesthetic is a tattered brocade of industrial grunge and oldfangled whimsy.

In a forgotten trunk, antique doll Buttercup (voiced by Vivian Schilling, who produced, wrote and directed the English adaptation) happily keeps house for a gentle teddy (Whitaker), a marionette with a Don Quixote complex (Elwes) and a clay blob with a pencil-stub nose and thick French accent (Marcelo Tubert).

A toy mouse named Madame Curie (an especially spirited, Yiddish-spouting Cusack) joins the boys to save Buttercup after she's kidnapped by the Head, who rules the Land of Evil and takes advice from a spectacles-wearing earwig.

Allusions to European politics are clear in the attic's divide between goodies and baddies, complete with surveillance and misinformation campaigns. The narrative, though, is mere scaffolding for Barta's richly realized world, a kind of hand-hewn 3-D cinema that's testament to the limitlessness of imagination.

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"Toys in the Attic." MPAA rating: PG for some mild peril and brief smoking. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At selected theaters.

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