When it comes to kidvid, there’s a ton of choices. With so many people opting for Disney, Pixar, or other big budget offerings, there’s a lot of stuff that falls through the cracks. Charlie: A Toy Story is one such recent release, the feature-length directorial debut of Garry A. Brown. After producing decidedly more adult fare like TV’s Prison Break and Breakout Kings (not to mention the upcoming pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Brown has come up with a barely passable 99-minute babysitter for young kids.
Caden (Raymond Ochoa) has just turned nine. His parents, Jack (Drew Waters) and Faith (Rheagan Wallace), are in the midst of marital problems. When Jack gives Caden a puppy for his birthday without having consulted his wife, it’s the final nail in their marriage’s coffin. Flash forward a year, the couple has separated and Caden is living with his mom. Jack, struggling as a toymaker for years, has finally hit upon a potential million dollar idea. It’s a little treasure chest that, when opened, emits little bits of golden light. Apparently this “toy” can become anything its user desires, though how this is possible or what its limitations might be are never really discussed.
The Charlie of the title, by the way, is Caden’s dog. It’s short for a much longer name that also belongs to a gas station attendant that Jack encounters on his way to a toy convention. He believes he’s been invited. See, there’s another guy in the neighborhood that also runs a toy shop. His son, who regularly bullies Caden, spies the new wonder toy Jack created. The boy delivers a phony invite to the toy fair, concocted as a way to lure Jack’s new creation into the public eye. Truth be told, there’s probably a little too much plot here for a movie aimed at such a young audience. And the gas station attendant? He’s apparently some sort of angel who appears, along with an androgynous teenaged assistant, as a last-minute aid in Jack’s journey to the big toy convention.
Most of the dialogue is delivered awkwardly, either in a halting, tentative manner or in an over-enthusiastic rush. At 25, Rheagan Wallace seems too young to have a ten-year-old son, especially while married to the 39-year-old Drew Waters. The two bullies that torment Caden are the least-threatening kids you could imagine, while Charlie the dog has very little to do with the actual plot. Charlie: A Toy Story might play well to the under-ten crowd, especially if they have had little exposure to superior product.