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Did you ever wonder where babies come from as a kid? Maybe your parents told you that you were delivered by a stork, or grew in a cabbage patch. Well, director Craig Goodwill decided to explore a world in which those stories are true, but also much darker than you imagined. The result is the very odd, Gilliam-esque semi-musical Patch Town
Rob Ramsay plays Jon, a dissatisfied worker at Patch Enterprises, a huge, secretive toy manufacturer. Jon's job is to pull newly formed babies from their incubating cabbages, rinse them off, and send them off onto a conveyor belt where they can be converted to dolls. He and his wife Mary (Stephanie Pitsiladis) have wanted a child for years, and at great personal risk, Jon is able to smuggle one out of the factory to raise as their own. Others aren't so lucky. If they get caught, they are sent for reeducation.
Witnessing a couple being beaten on the street and taken away for just such a crime, Jon and Mary decide they need to flee Patch Town. Jon also wants to find his adoptive mother, though he doesn't tell Mary at first. Did I mention that all the workers at Patch Industries are former babies turned dolls, stolen back from their "mothers" who have forgotten about them as they grow up? During their escape, the couple meets up with Sly (Suresh John), who works smuggling folks out of Patch Town. They have a small bit of hope when they reach the big city, but when Patch Town thugs kidnap the daughter of Jon's mother Bethany (Zoie Palmer), they come to a moral crossroads. Do they dare go back to Patch Town to rescue her?
As the description above might have suggested, Patch Town is a profoundly weird film, but it does a pretty good job of keeping the strangeness whimsical and not off putting. The characters are well played. The heroes are sympathetic and the villains are wicked. There is a fair bit of humor, and though there aren't really any belly laughs, there are quite a number of chuckles and smiles. The music isn't too bad either, and both Ramsay and Pitsiladis can belt out a tune with passion and style. There's a lot to like about Patch Town, but it's also just a bit hollow. The climax is much more anticlimactic than I was expecting, and I never fully invested in the story and the characters. In some ways, it was too easy, without enough real challenges or growth for the characters. However, the fairy tale aura and magical realist atmosphere is consistent throughout, and the film is a joy to look at. All in all, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Recommended.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. The colors are deep and rich, while the shadows are inky and thick. Much of this film happens at night, in poorly lit alleys and rundown buildings, and the camera really uses the spaces of dark and light to evoke a mood. This is a very, very good looking film.
Audio is available in both Dolby digital 5.1 channel and 2 channel, and both sound good. This is most apparent during the musical segments, when the vocals are clear and crisp and bracing. There are no obvious problems at other times either. French subtitles are included, but no alternate language track.
There are a number of extras included. They are:
Patch Town Short Film
This is the original twenty seven minute film that preceded the feature. A fair bit of the footage was reused for the feature, but a lot wasn't, and the story is, obviously, quite truncated. Goodwill says that he always intended to turn the short into a full length film. While the fairy tale feel remains, the feature is actually more emotionally satisfying than the short. This is a fun watch.
This is almost thirteen minutes of animatic storyboards. If this kind of thing interests you, check it out.
Behind the Scenes Featurette
This featurette has interviews with director Goodwill, the DP Guy Godfrey, production designer Matt Middleton, and actors Rob Ramsay and Zoie Palmer. There is a lot of behind the scenes footage and insights to how the production went.
The casting sessions for Rob Ramsay and Ken Hall, who played the child catcher Kenny, are included here.
Interview with the Director This is a short interview with director Craig Goodwill. He talks about the origins of the story, adapting the script to the budget and available locations, and much more. Interesting.
Three and a half minutes of outtakes. Nothing special.
Two trailers for Patch Town in different styles.
Patch Town isn't a perfect film, and certainly isn't for everyone, but it has its charms nonetheless. The passion of the filmmakers for the story really shines through in the attention to detail and delight in the storytelling. It's not a bad fairy tale, if you like them with a dark twist. Check it out.