Josh And Todd: The Story Of A Man And His Puppet follows the exploits of the rundown Josh (Eric Stegmaier), who seems to have lost all his mojo. After waking from a nightmare, Josh discovers that his id has leaped from his brain into the real world. His id has taken the shape of a purple puppet monster named Todd (Jon Bristol). Todd is here to get Josh to rediscover the joys of life, but he is understandably a bit shocked.
However, Josh’s girlfriend, Stacey (Jennifer Tanner), is upset by the appearance of this interloper. But, Josh persuades her, and Todd, to try and get along. Much more understanding, possibly even excited, about Todd showing up are Josh’s friends Hunter (Gabe Finkenstein), The Brain (Mark Elsinger), and co-worker Dawn (Elizabeth Bohmier). But the tension between Todd and Stacey keeps mounting, tearing Josh in two different directions.
Jim Williams and Jon Bristol made their directorial and writing debut with Josh And Todd in 2011. The limited resources the cast and crew had available are noticeable in several ways, mainly in many continuity errors and the wobbly sound editing. For example, a conversation in a kitchen has a magically transporting cat sitting on the window sill, while a meeting between The Brain and Josh at a bar has deafening ambient noise and low dialogue.
While such issues might be enough to frustrate some audiences, the good far outweighs the bad. For starters, Todd is designed to be inviting and friendly while still looking inhuman enough not to be mistaken as one. Plus, Bristol imbues the puppet with a lot of personality, both in his voice and physical movements. Todd is frank about his intentions from the start, and as such, he instantly endears himself to viewers. Stegmaier interacts with the purple fuzz with a mouth very well, and their growing bond is believable.
“[Josh’s] id has taken the shape of a purple puppet monster named Todd.”
Stegmaier also proves to have a solid screen presence beyond him and Todd. He shares an easygoing chemistry with all his co-stars and balances the quick humor and drama well. Tanner is fun to hate as Stacey and toes the right line between cruel and amusing. As Dawn, Bohmier is delightful and charming, bringing a sweet energy that balances nicely with the more shrill Stacey. Both Finkenstein and Elsinger have excellent comedic timing and help keep the somewhat absurd proceedings grounded.
But the real star of Josh And Todd is the witty screenplay by Williams and Bristol. There’s a rapid-fire Looney Tunes-esque rhythm to the dialogue so that every joke is followed by another and another. A woman asks Todd out on a date, describing it as “you know, chicken then sex.” Hysterical! Hunter’s penchant for rhyming everything he says also proves to be quite funny, never turning into the annoying gimmick it might have.
Plus, the themes being explored, while occasionally a bit on the nose, do resonant. At one point, Josh asks Stacey, what is so fun about doing something you don’t want to do? While that isn’t the direct quote, it is a fair thing to ask. It goes to show the big ideas the filmmakers are toying with. Then there is the racism angle, which goes into Stacey’s hatred of Todd. It is impressive that Williams and Bristol pack so many themes and messages into 70-minutes.
Josh And Todd: The Story Of A Man And His Puppet is unable to fully transcend its low-budget origins. However, the screenplay is filled with comedy gold, and the themes being dealt with are relatable and well handled. The cast all do an incredible job, and the puppet’s design works on a number of levels. If you like somewhat offbeat comedies and puppets, then you will find this film right up your alley.
"…a rapid-fire Looney Tunes-esque rhythm to the dialogue..."
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