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The Inseparables review – marionettes on a quest to keep a puppet theatre alive

<span>Photograph: Signature Entertainment</span>
Photograph: Signature Entertainment

‘From the writers of Toy Story,” it says on the poster for this kids’ animation, and the plot is similarly based on the idea of toys coming to life – this time, old-fashioned marionettes in a puppet theatre. But proceed with caution because The Inseparables is not a Pixar movie and, aside from two of the writers, this boring, unfunny and somewhat soulless film shares no perceivable DNA with Toy Story.

The setting is Central Park in New York, where the puppets in a children’s theatre have been running the show since their elderly puppet-maker retired. (No mention of how they keep the front of house going or pay the bills.) But not all the actors are happy: balding clown Don is sick of being typecast as the fool (“You’re the funny guy! The nincompoop!”) and dreams of playing a knight on a quest. Like his namesake Don Quixote, he turns the world into a playground of adventure in his imagination. Almost inevitably, he must become a hero for real when burglars steal the other puppets to sell on eBay.

There’s nothing to object to in the perfectly adequate animation. But what’s missing is charm or a spark of imagination. Even the character who should connect most with little ones – a rapping stuffed toy dog called DJ Doggy Dog – is weirdly unadorable. And some of the voice actors seem to have taken the wooden construction of their characters a bit literally. It’s accurate – but possibly catty – to point out that the Toy Story writers credited here are the ones who went on to The Garfield Movie and not fellow Toy Story scripters Joss Whedon and Andrew Stanton who went on to, well, other things.

• The Inseparables is released on 8 December in UK cinemas