The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 25, 2009

Review: ‘Bart Got a Room’ a quirky, low-key comedy

“Bart Got a Room”

(Rated PG-13)

It can be argued that there are only a handful of unique ideas that form the basis of all stories and, consequently, all movies. If that is the case, then it’s not so much the story you tell, as how you tell it. And that is where “Bart Got a Room” really shines.

For high-school senior Danny Stein, the most important dilemma in his life is not where he will be ranked in his graduating class, or what colleges he should apply to; it’s getting the best possible date to the prom.

Danny’s best friend Camille (played with effortless charm by Alia Shawkat, of TV’s “Arrested Development”) would be an excellent, and willing, choice, but Danny can’t get over the notion that there’s someone “better” waiting for him. As Danny’s search becomes more frantic, it begins to mirror the plight of his own parents, recently separated and trying to make their own way through the tangled jungle of dating. One thing seems certain: looking for love never gets any easier.

Though this material has been done to death in countless films that came before, and will certainly form the basis for countless films yet to come, “Bart Got a Room” manages to throw some unexpected twists and surprises into the mix — the result of which is a film that stands out from the pack. Earthy and realistic in the way that only really good low-budget films can be, Bart glows with good-natured warmth that makes it a joy to watch.

A quirky and low-key comedy, it features enough hilarious situations and wonderful performances (particularly the always-great William H. Macy, as Danny’s clueless father) that it may just be the perfect sweet treat for a movie-night with friends or a special someone.

“Madame Tutli-Putli”

A woman with a tremendous amount of baggage (both literally and figuratively) waits nervously on a train platform. When the train arrives, she boards, and finds herself on a mysterious journey through the night, into the unknown.

This simple plot forms the basis of one of the most incredible stop-motion animated movies I have ever seen. The Academy Award-nominated short film (which runs just over 17 minutes, including credits) comprises 23,287 distinct frames of film that each had to be set by the animators prior to being photographed. This process took over five years to complete.

The work shines through in the finished product. Never before has subtlety of expression and nuanced character movements been captured as minutely and realistically in a stop-motion film. Add the groundbreaking use of composite pictures of human eyes on the puppets, and the characters become filled with a sense of life and pathos that many human actors would find hard to replicate.

Suffice it to say that in a film this short, there’s not a whole lot of room for plot, and what happens in “Madame Tutli-Putli” seems to be grasped internally more than consciously understood. I won’t go into details and risk spoiling the fun, but the best compliment I can pay this movie is to say that it felt like an extremely vivid dream; one which was in equal parts humorous, perverse and horrifying, but nonetheless thrilling and definitely memorable.

A movie this packed with visual information almost demands to be viewed more than once. And the breathtaking animation, combined with the intriguing and ambiguous plot (not to mention the brief running-time), make repeated viewings a pleasure.

An incredible, painstakingly produced cinematic spectacle, “Madame Tutli-Putli” shines as bright as the midnight stars that populate its stop-motion sky. It’s a journey not to be missed!

Mark Schuster is the assistant circulation supervisor at Joplin Public Library.