'Patch Town': Fantasia Review

Whimsy and dystopia pair poorly in a kids' tale gone wrong.

A villain turns real babies into children's dolls in Craig Goodwill's musical debut.

A half-musical nightmare that seems to be about an inch away from some crippling lawsuits, Craig Goodwill's Patch Town envisions a horrific quasi-child-slavery scheme whose end result is something almost if not exactly like the Cabbage Patch Kids. Worse than defaming a brand that hasn't topped Christmas wish lists for many years, the dark fantasy manages to be grindingly dull despite its many quirks. Much too dark for kids and too flimsy for adults, it is a tough sell even for novelty-seeking fest auds.

Jon (Rob Ramsay) lives in a Soviet-era-like village whose residents all work for a single factory. As locally harvested cabbages pass by on an assembly line, he slices into their milky interiors and harvests the squirming babies within; these are then freeze-dried into plastic dolls for sale to the outside world, immobile objects that continue to see, hear and feel emotion while residing atop some child's bed. What Jon doesn't realize is that he, and all his peers, were once such dolls: When girls grow up, their toys are stolen and re-transformed into corpulent workers for the factory, memories of their imprisonment purged from their minds.

When he learns of this secret history, Jon decides to take his wife (and the baby they've stolen to raise for themselves) far from Patch Town in search of the now-grown woman he thinks of as his long lost mother. He finds work as a department-store Santa, with his new pal Sly (Suresh John) as an elf, only to learn that the twisted proprietor of Patch Town (Julian Richings, as wickedly skeletal as Jon is obese) has targeted the woman he's hunting, kidnapping her flesh-and-blood tween daughter in order to punish Jon for his theft.

Though Christopher Bond's songs are professionally orchestrated and delivered by the cast, their unmemorable melodies and sophomoric lyrics do nothing for the film. Matt Middleton's production design works overall, but effects shots showing the factory's exterior suffer from obvious fakeness and the movie's emphasis on Russian Constructivist typography makes little sense. Expanded from a 2011 short, the story feels painfully stretched even at 83 minutes, moving rotely through a rescue arc that is familiar even when the details are bizarre. One-dimensional performances predominate, though Ken Hall breathes life into an evil henchman role.

Production company: Canspan Film Factory

Cast: Rob Ramsay, Zoie Palmer, Julian Richings, Suresh John, Stephanie Pitsiladis, Ken Hall

Director: Craig Goodwill

Screenwriters: Craig Goodwill, Christopher Bond, Trevor Martin

Producers: Craig Goodwill, David Sparkes

Executive producers: Alfredo Contreras, Mark Montefiore

Director of photography: Guy Godfree

Production designer: Matt Middleton

Costume designer: Georgina Yarhi

Editor: Jeremy Lalonde

Music: Silvio Amato

Sales: Reel Suspects

No rating, 83 minutes