In the avant garde film Toys in the Attic, we meet a mismatched community of antique toys that live in an attic of a home in Prague. They include Buttercup, (Vivian Schilling) a pretty doll who runs a boarding house of sorts, housing Sir Handsome (Cary Elwes) a chivalrous marionette with no strings, Teddy (Forest Whitaker) a humble teddy bear, and Laurent (Marcelo Tubert) a clay blob with a heart of gold. When an evil bust, called the Head of State, in the other side of the attic takes a shine to pretty Buttercup he sets out to capture her and take her to his dirty, grey, totalitarian empire. When his plan succeeds, Buttercup’s friends set out to rescue her, joined by the rest of the toy community as soon as word gets out. It takes the courage of the whole toy town to rescue the doll and literally clean up the empire on the other side.
This movie can be very dark; I don’t know what Netflix is thinking putting it in the kids section, but it’s dark for a very good reason. The director, Jiri Barta, grew up in the former Czechoslovakia in the days of communism and the Iron Curtain, and translated his childhood experiences into this movie. The Land of Evil, the land on the other side of the attic, is dirty, corrupt and grey, inhabited, not by the jolly and industrious toys, but by bugs, old tarps, and rotten potatoes, who torment and try to break Buttercup’s spirit, even threatening to eat her! Talk about creepy! The Head of State also causes a train accident that ties up Laurent, so he can’t rally the others in time to save Buttercup. His adviser is an earwig with a human head that crawls in his ear. How about ew!
Buttercup’s friends are the opposite of the inhabitants of the Land of Evil. They are brave and colorful, especially Sir Handsome, but what did you expect from Cary Elwes, who sounds like he had loads of fun, being in all an affectionate parody of every swashbuckler he’s ever played. Buttercup, when held prisoner by the Head of State, stands up to his minions and keeps her fighting spirit while awaiting rescue. The toys are rallied by the resourceful Madame Curie, played by Joan Cusack (Jessie from Toy Story coincidentally) it is Madame Curie who makes and pilots all of the toy’s vehicles and makes it possible for them to rescue Buttercup. If you look at the film itself, you can see the time and love that went into it, Teddy for instance wears a hand crochet vest, felted slightly to make it look old.
Toys in the Attic, often creepy, sometimes trippy, tells a story that those of us in the post Iron Curtain age must remember, or have it repeated. On the whole, this tale of old toys is a sweet one, showing a childlike sensibility, by using various odds and ends as ways to move the plot along, throwing obstacles in the way. In the end, this story about the West defeating the evil of communism, is one worth watching for adults and teens, children under the age of 13 will find this movie too scary.
I'm T.K. Wilson, Read my blog for great information and stories about dolls, toy restoration, Christian Fantasy and so much more! Blog updates Fridays.