Whimsical 'Toys', now in English

Jirí Barta's richly imagined "Toys in the Attic," a 2009 Czech stop-motion animated feature, has been retrofitted with an English-language voice cast led by Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack, and Cary Elwes.
Jirí Barta's richly imagined "Toys in the Attic," a 2009 Czech stop-motion animated feature, has been retrofitted with an English-language voice cast led by Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack, and Cary Elwes.
Posted: September 15, 2012

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.

Jirí 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 old-fangled 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, 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.


Toys in the Attic *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Jirí Barta. Voices by Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack, and Cary Elwes. Distributed by Hannover House.

Running time: 1 hour, 17 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (mild peril).

Playing at: selected Regal theaters

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