“I really thought I’d turned in my warranty that time!”
Al’s Rating: Hug your blender.
Al’s Review: I don’t like the idea of inanimate objects. It’s weird, but the thought of something simply existing with no thoughts or feelings or dreams and worries bothers me in a way I can’t quite describe. It just feels wrong. I prefer to imagine that the couch and the ottoman have conversations when I’m not around and that the kitchen creates its own messes. I’m one of those people who can’t pass a shoe on the side of the road without wondering where it’s going and I simply cannot throw out anything from my childhood that has a face. Luckily, my mother never had those scruples or I’d be up to my eyeballs in action figures.
So it seems like The Brave Little Toaster was made for me specifically, confirming all my deepest suspicions about my stuff having fun without me. Toaster, Lampy, Blanket, Radio, and Kirby (a vacuum) are five dated appliances living in a long-unused summer home. They spend their days keeping the place in order and lovingly dreaming about the day when The Master, a little redheaded boy, will come back and play with them. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when a For Sale sign appears on the front lawn and a cranky air conditioner tells them that they have been abandoned forever. The appliances despair until Toaster decides that The Master must have simply forgotten them and that they need to travel to the Big City to track him down. With the help of a portable battery and a rolling desk chair, they brave forests, rivers, mudpits, thunderstorms, junk dealers, and worse in a bid to be remembered.
For a story about walking appliances, The Brave Little Toaster is one dark movie. Our characters get lost in the woods, get struck by lightening, are smashed to pieces, have freaky clown dreams, and witness the horror of being dissected for spare parts. Heck, I’m 27 and was squirming as they tried to scale cliffs and cross waterfalls. But that’s all balanced by some very sweet moments, too, like the Toaster trying to describe what it feels like to be nice to someone (”It’s like being next to a new loaf of bread!”) and the jealous, grumpy Air Conditioner tearing up when he finally gets some attention.
The voices are relative unknowns except for Jon Lovitz as Radio and Phil Hartman in a pair of minor roles, but they all do a good job bringing a lot of life and a lot of definition to their characters. Toaster is determined and brash, Blanket is immature and clingy, Kirby is grizzled and cantankerous; they are distinctions that the voices are able to sell in a way that the rest of the film simply can’t. The songs fall pretty flat (especially “The Cutting Edge” by the high-tech machines) and the animation isn’t quite Beauty and the Beast, but the movie does an admirable job nonetheless giving life to the world it’s created. There are some extremely impressive sequences throughout, including the aforementioned freaky clown dream, the junkyard sequence at the end, and a well-placed “Tutti Frutti” near the beginning, so I can’t get too down on them.
The Brave Little Toaster is a movie that was not a giant hit when it first came out and actually took two years to find a proper theatrical release, but it’s gathered a small, loyal fanbase and I definitely understand why. It obviously wasn’t made with the biggest budget, but its got a quirky style and unique voice that carry it over the rough patches and make it something really special for those of us who just can’t stomach another Disney princess.