‘Ffrom the writers of Toy Story,” says the poster for this children’s animation, and the plot is also based on the idea of toys coming to life – this time, old-fashioned puppets in a puppet theater. But be careful because The Lovebirds is not a Pixar film and, aside from two of the writers, this boring, unfunny, and somewhat soulless film shares no discernible DNA with Toy Story.
The setting is New York’s Central Park, where the puppets of a children’s theater have been running the show since their old puppet maker retired. (No mention of how they run the place or pay the bills.) But not all the actors are happy: bald clown Don is tired of being typecast as a jerk (“You’re the Funny One guy! The simpleton!”) ) and dreams of playing a knight on a quest. Like his namesake Don Quixote, he transforms the world into an adventure playground in his imagination. Almost inevitably, he must become a real hero when burglars steal the other puppets and sell them on eBay.
There is nothing to complain about in the perfectly adequate animation. But what’s missing is charm or a spark of imagination. Even the character that toddlers should endear most to – a rapper stuffed dog named DJ Doggy Dog – is oddly unadorable. And some voice actors seem to have taken the wooden construction of their characters somewhat literally. It is accurate – but perhaps unkind – to point out that the Toy Story writers credited here are those who continued on The Garfield Movie and not the other Toy Story writers, Joss Whedon and Andrew Stanton, who continued on other stuff.