A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Toys in the Attic is the English-dubbed version of a 2009 Czech film. A combination of stop-action and live-action characters, the movie is too menacing -- and some of the creatures too frightening -- for younger moviegoers. While the "secret life of toys" set-up might sound like Toy Story, the characters can be downright creepy, and the evil Head (who smokes cigars) incredibly disturbing (he's obsessed with kidnapping an antique doll and forcing her to do his bidding). Tweens with a sophisticated film palate or an interest in stop-action animation will be intrigued, but it's not for younger kids.
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What's the story?
In a dusty old attic, the inhabitants are divided between the peace-loving, communal-living residents of the West and the Land of Evil in the East. The villain, a statue's bust called the Head (voiced by Douglas Urbanski), plots to have his minions (creepy insects, rotten vegetables, and a rogue black cat) kidnap the beautiful antique doll Buttercup (Vivian Schilling). After she's held prisoner, it's up to a motley crew of misfit friends -- train-conducting Teddy (Forest Whitaker), Spanish marionette Sir Handsome (Cary Elwes), clay creature Laurent (Marcel Tubert), and radio-announcing mouse Madam Curie (Joan Cusack) -- to figure out a way to defeat the Head and rescue Buttercup.
Is it any good?
Director Jiri Barta inventively depicts the idea of toys coming to life by including animals and vegetables and a combination of stop-motion and live-action characters. Visually, TOYS IN THE ATTIC is a stunning, remarkable film made by a true craftsman. But to American audiences brought up on Disney and Pixar, the scene might be too frightening and creepy -- grotesque, even -- to be considered appropriate for younger audiences.
Although the voice cast is top notch, there was almost no need to re-dub the film in English. The stop-action animation genre might be considered family fare by many, but this is really more of an art-house film that would have been better served in the original Czech. As an option for older children familiar enough with foreign movies to read subtitles and adults who enjoy grown-up animated fare, this is a perfect pick, but for families who prefer their stories light and their animation straightforward, hold off on this at-times macabre story for another time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the filmmakers employed the use of real humans/objects mixed with the stop-motion figures. Was the result different than films that include computer-generated characters? Which do you prefer?
Some of the characters were frightening. Do you think Toys in the Attic is more an art-house film or a family film?
Can you tell that this movie wasn't made by an American studio? How? Are there other foreign animated movies that you enjoy?
- In theaters: September 7, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 5, 2013
- Cast: Cary Elwes, Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack
- Directors: Jirí Barta, Vivian Schilling
- Studio: Hannover House
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild peril and brief smoking
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