Vancouver, CANADA — Halfway through the Vancouver International Film Festival, and it’s easy to feel slight fatigue from all the films heavy in social commentary, political, and environmental themes.

The type of films that leave the viewer in a state of melancholy when they leave the theatre, and though the festival is made up of many ‘serious’ films, there are a few exceptions that need not indulge in heavy handed messages to entertain audiences. Which in this case is a delightful film called Kooky, from Jan Sverák of the Czech Republic.

The story of a boy dealing with asthma who lets his imagination run wild, after the loss of his favourite teddy bear, Kooky (voiced by Ondrej Sverák). The fantasy film follows the adventure of the toy as he tries to find his way home after getting thrown out with the trash.

Using a wonderful array of intricately designed puppets, props, and miniature sets, Sverak makes the film feel very organic and seamless in the live-action setting. Rather than the jarring feel of stop-motion animation, the puppets were animated by wires and string, which gives the action a smooth quality. They were manipulated by Buchty a loutky, a Czech puppet theatre ensemble.

The choice to dub the film in English by the filmmakers was an interesting choice since the majority of the films at the festival are subtitled, but soon into the film, it became clear that dubbing in English was a logical one. The  dialogue is excellent working well with the puppets who have so much personality, and more screen time than their human counterparts. A plus for the children in the audience who were not troubled with having to read subtitles.

The film does a good job in creating a world in which toys exist outside of the home, establishing characters and situations that are humorous, and believable. Filled with fantastic photography throughout the film, it’s easy to forget that these are relatively small puppets. The beautifully designed toy vehicles and the car chase sequence that ensues in the film are truly memorable.

Kooky is easily relatable to kids and grown ups alike, as we can all relate to having to grow up, and wanting to hold on to the characters of our imagination.


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