Set in a magical world of toys and knick-knacks stored in the attic of a home in Prague, this award-winning stop-motion animated feature has been called “An animation masterpiece” (Anima Basuari), and “a diabolically inventive tale that is four parts ‘Toy Story’ and one part Tim Burton (New York International Children’s Film Festival).
The setting for the film was inspired by the cultural and political contrast of the Cold War era and its impact on director Jiri Barta and the Czech Republic. The world of the attic is divided into the land of happy toys in the West and the Land of Evil in the East. The despotic Head of State rules over the Land of Evil with a band of sinister minions, insects and rotted vegetables. When the lovely Buttercup (Vivian Schilling) is kidnapped and held prisoner by The Head (Jiri Labus, with voice by Douglas Urbanski), it is up to her friends — a teddy bear (Forest Whitaker), a mechanical mouse (Joan Cusack) and marionette puppet (Cary Elwes) to cross the international boundary and attempt their daring rescue.
The plot is rather straightforward and familiar and it almost seems to have a Wizard of Oz type of feeling to it. There is the sweet little Buttercup (voiced by Schilling). Buttercup is a cute little china doll that is targeted by the evil Head. (Urbansky) He is the leader of the evil toys and beings of his corner of the attic. What he wants to do with Buttercup is not delved into but you get the feeling it is not anything good. Head is basically a bust with no arms and legs, and he is totally dependent on his evil companions to do his bidding. It makes one wonder how he gained control in the first place with no arms and no legs, but I digress.
Head’s minions include a creature that is half bug and half man that literally crawls into his ear when he has something to say or discuss. There is also an arm that is able to go get things, an eyeball on a tube that allows them to see all and many potato looking beings with Barbie doll legs that are creepy as can be.
They succeed in kidnapping Buttercup and her friends decide to mount a daring rescue. Those friends include Teddy (Forest Whitaker), a Marionette named Sir Handsome (Cary Elwes), a stuffed mouse named Madame Curie (joan Cusack) and a blob of goo named Laurent (Marcelo Tubert). Laurent plays the part of the one that gets destroyed over and over by getting slaughtered in Mr. Bill style repeatedly. (Being made of clay and all….)
The premise may be simple but the movie never feels that way. Instead it has an almost symbolic theme that runs throughout and you can never put your finger on it but you know that it is adult in nature. The feeling that runs through the movie almost feels evil in some way.
One reason for this is the evil bad guys and the way they are visualized, but it is more than that. There is a nefarious feeling that seems to be unexplored here, as the movie does not want to cross a certain line. That line is probably an R rating.
On the plus side, if you take it as a movie intended for a more mature crowd, the flick is incredible. The visuals are worth the price of a ticket all by themselves but it is not due to perfection. When you watch a Pixar movie, you get perfection overall. This movie has a different feeling with the visuals. It is not grainy, but it certainly gives you the feeling that it is not high budget as well. The only really bad thing is the voices. The actors do a fantastic job, but the sound is not good. It sounds almost like they are talking through a telephone or something.
In the end, you have a film that is fantastically done, but bit confused about who its audience really is.