Our Favourite Films: Toys in the Attic (2009)

Toys In The Attic indexThere’s no denying that Toys In The Attic doesn’t exactly have an original central idea as it features toys who come to life when anyone is present to see them, but it takes that concept and weaves absolutely glorious insanity out of it, and is a joy to watch from the very first frame. If anything it diminishes the Toy Story series, as while the first three were lovable now I wish they’d contained some of the inspired madness found here.

It’s a film I stumbled over while looking for recommendations for unusual European films, but it’s so fantastic that I’m amazed that it took me so long to discover it, such is the impressive level of imagination found here. A mostly stop motion affair with occasional moments of drawn animation and a brief snippet of live action footage, this international co-production between the Czech Republic, France, Japan and Slovakia deserves to be far better known than it is, especially as there’s a dubbed version available voiced by the likes of Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack, Cary Elwes and Vivian Schilling.

Unlike those sentient toys from the Pixar movies nobody here gives a toss about humanity, a grandmother and granddaughter make a brief appearance but only serve to show how these toys have been forgotten about over the years but truly don’t care as they’ve constructed their own fairly complex society. The leads are a teddy bear, a female doll, a weird bit of plasticine that looks like a mutated Morph of Aardman Animations fame, and a marionette adventurer who live together in the attic, but who also go about their day to day lives and each has their own distinct role to play.

A golden head has designs on Buttercup, the doll they all adore, however and soon she is tricked in to leaving her home and captured by the evil bastard. He’s aided by a cat who is a master of disguise and many a creepy bug, and tries to mentally destroy her by being rather menacing and cruel. Thankfully  her absence is quickly noted and soon everyone is rushing to her rescue, the only question being will they get their in time before the villain of the picture breaks her?

It has a lot of the same mad energy of A Town Called Panic but is definitely its own beast, and visually it’s one of those films that’ll take your breath away, at several points in the film I found myself laughing out loud at the beautiful inventiveness that takes place. As these toys have been mostly forgotten about and left in the attic for many a year the film has a grimy and gunky look to it, but that only serves to make it all the more unique.

Packed full of adorable characters, it has made me want to seek out everything else director Jirí Barta has created, and even though that’s only a small number of short films and one other feature I can’t wait to devour them. I hope he has at least one more full length movie in him as it’d be an enormous shame if this was his final work, though if that is the case it’s one hell of a movie to go out on.

★★★★1/2

Alex Finch.

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