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FESTIVALS Czech Republic

Kooky is thrilling, no strings attached

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Kooky is thrilling, no strings attached

Jan Svěrák's Kooky [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, competing in the official selection at Karlovy Vary, is a visionary work of imagination which will delight young audiences and satisfy parents. A family film combining ingenious puppetry and live action, the film is a departure for Svěrák. But fans of the director's previous films co-written with his father Zdeněk Svěrák will be relieved to know that the dialogue remains as sharp as anything in Kolya or Empties [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
.

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Ondra, a young asthmatic played by the director's son Ondřej Svěrák, is forced to give up his beloved red Teddy bear, Kooky. In the midst of an asthma attack, Ondra dreams Kooky's narrow escape from the landfill to a wood filled with tiny spirits. The crotchety local guardian Hergot, voiced by Zdeněk Svěrák, tries to send Kooky quickly on his way. But when landfill authorities turn up to claim Kooky as trash, Hergot takes a stand.

All the film's technical credits are outstanding but none more so than the puppetry, which at times suggests Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal or George Lucas' creature effects in Star Wars. Svěrák and his team perfect the illusion by filming among living plants and animals.

The plot has sufficient thrills for six-year-old boys (sadly, there are no girls in the film), even those accustomed to Hollywood car chases. It also gives young viewers' credit for their intelligence. The gentle jokes about old age and sex aren't so much a wink to adults as to children who are smarter than parents want to believe.

The story provides considerable food for thought, presenting kid-friendly doses of very serious material (xenophobia, abuse of power, mortality). Although thrilling and provocative, it is not anarchic; good ultimately triumphs and moral order is restored.

The director's employment of a deus (or rather canis) ex machina to deliver Kooky home may disappoint some, and a well-intentioned coda about letting go comes across as hammy and suggests a sequel opportunity, but Kooky is ultimately a winner.

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