In the Attic is a fun children’s film that finds itself somewhere in between the heart strung world of Toy Story and the frantic insanity of A Town Called Panic. It’s stop-motion at its best with a story that is sweet without being saccharine and wacky in a way that won’t scare children, but might leave them wary of talking green heads.
Buttercup, a beautiful blonde-haired doll, lives inside a suitcase with a marionette named Prince Charming, a small teddy bear, and a Play-doh style lump who uses a bottle cap for a hat. They get along just fine in their miniature world, but Buttercup is kidnapped to the Land Of Evil, and the roommates have to band together to get her back from the clutches of a green bust of a man’s head who wants her for his bride.
In a mix of the real world and stop motion toys and junk, director Jiri Barta has created something that’s truly inspired – a film that trumps most children’s fare in the US with its innocence and vision. Each hero is strange and lovable. Each villain is creepy. Each character is unendingly watchable because of the art the production has brought to the otherwise moth ball covered world of the attic. This also extends to the grandmother and daughter that live in the house where, unbeknown to them, an entire universe of talking junk lives out a complex geopolitical struggle against the Land of Evil.
Beyond the story, the real standout of the movie is its look. Almost every animation technique is utilized and blended together in a way that manages to avoid being messy. It’s a world where it might be just as likely to see a Teddy Ruxpin doll walking around as it is a ball of lint. Stop motion is the main fixture, but it’s clear that there’s also some hand drawn material and computer generated elements scattered throughout. The result is a look that feels like Rankin and Bass were convinced to work with Mother Goose and H.R. Pufnstuf.
The best character might actually be the conniving black cat – who fluctuates between being a real live cat and a stuffed one that has the ability to tie up toys and redraw train tracks with chalk. Still, there’s no character that isn’t made enjoyable either by the writing or by the design.
As for the overall tone, it’s something not quite as dark as The Secret of NIMH, but it’s certainly not all lighthearted. There’s a real sense of danger even if the main villain – a green bust with a moving mouth and disembodied arm – comes off as a Snidely Whiplash figure.
Over all, it’s sweet and delightful. In the Attic is a display of creative that’s rarely seen, and fortunately it’s all wrapped up in a fun story, making it probably the best thing to come out of the Czech Republic since the kolache. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a talking one in the movie somewhere.