Story: In scenic Paris, Andre Toulon (Greg Sestero) operates a wonderful little theatre where he performs puppet shows, using his own creations as the stars. Even though Toulon is a very young man, he is able to craft superb puppets and manipulate them skillfully and with ease. In addition to running his shows, Toulon has a crush on Ilsa (Brigitta Dau), the young daughter of the Swiss ambassador. While times seem peaceful for Toulon, he will soon find himself in the middle of a supernatural battle for survival. It seems as though a sorcerer has stolen the secret of life from Sutekh, who sends out some thugs to recover the goods and put the sorcerer to rest once and for all. Before the sorcerer is killed, he manages to pass the secret on to young Toulon, just before Ilsa is kidnapped by the baddies. Toulon uses his newfound knowledge to animate his creations, and then leads them into battle to rescue Ilsa and defeat the evil Sutekh.
Entertainment Value: This seventh film in the Puppet Master series takes back to Toulon’s earliest days as a puppeteer, when his puppets still had strings. This is a wacky one, a PG-13 installment in what was once a horror series about killer dolls, but now seems to have reached comedic stages almost. I can’t tell how in tune the cast was with how corny this material is, but most of the cast seems to play it straight and serious, making this turkey even more hilarious. So perhaps everyone was in on the joke, but I doubt it since the intentional humor falls flat and the majority of the movie, no matter how laughable it might be, is played with a serious tone. Now to some, this will just come off as a bad movie, but I found it to be a lot of laughs and intentional or not, that leads to entertainment. So in truth, this is a real stinker at first glance, but you can extract some fun if you embrace how bad the performances are and how overly serious the entire picture is. But if you want horror themed, blood tinged puppet attacks, don’t expect that here, as the puppets have been more or less shelved.
I did have decent hopes for Retro Puppet Master back when it was released, as the throwback puppets have a cool look and all I wanted to see were these old school killers get unleashed, which never really happens here. As the PG-13 rating should indicate, the kills are minimal and while the series has never been soaked in gore, what there was before, is no more. So the puppets look cool, but are given little to and instead, the movie is driven by the human stories. I have no idea why, but I suppose it must have been profitable or they wouldn’t have shelved the puppets so often in some of the sequels. While the puppets aren’t around as much as we might like, we do have Greg Sestero, the legendary star of The Room, who has the lead role in this one. His accents, he tries several in Retro Puppet Master, are outrageous and he is so serious as Toulon, you can’t help but laugh. I am always glad to see Sestero in movies and while his performance is cheese central, he adds entertainment and at this point in the Puppet Master franchise, that is much needed. The cast also includes Guy Rolfe, Jack Donner, Brigitta Dau, and Stephen Blackehart.