Benny Loves You
by Hope Madden
There is something inescapably silly about toy horror. Whether it’s a marionette or a ventriloquist doll, a china doll (with those creepy eyelashes) or a friend til the end, the toy itself can only generate so much authentic terror. After that, it’s just goofiness.
Karl Holt embraces that combination for his vengeful toy story, Benny Loves You.
We open on a spoiled child, her new Barbie, and the now-discarded stuffed dog, Todd. But soon we’re entrenched in the subpar life of Jack (Holt, who also writes and directs). It’s his 35th birthday. He still lives with his parents, still sleeps in his childhood bedroom that is still decorated as it was when he was seven.
Jack is a toy designer, but co-worker Richard (a colossal tit) makes him look like a peon. They’re both up for the same promotion. Things go from bad to worse, then worse, then worse still. Finally, Jack decides to grow up and put away all his childish things, including his beloved stuffed bear (Bear? With those ears?), Benny.
It goes less than well, the unruly toy responding like a bloodthirsty if very cheery jilted lover.
Holt turns in a solid performance as the stunted man-child living a nightmare of adulthood, and there are times when his writing suggests something deeper. He almost develops themes about arrested development, the entertainment/gaming/toy industry, maybe even masculine entitlement. Almost.
Instead of digging in, he settles for a superficial but generally charming and very violent comedy. (Dog lovers may want to skip this one.)
Low-rent FX heighten the film’s silliness and general wrong-headed glee. All the support work is on target, from George Collie as the noxious Richard to the love interest (Claire Cartwright), dog-loving boss (James Parsons), and incompetent cops (Anthony Styles and Darren Benedict). Each understands the tone here and nails it.
It’s just that it doesn’t amount to much. A mean spirit punctuates the romplike atmosphere a couple of times and feels wildly out of step with the balance of the film, but other than that, Benny Loves You offers forgettable, bloody fun.