The Beanie Bubble15
Question: when is a toy not a toy? When it becomes a collectible. There are times when a toy is released, and for whatever reason, it hits mass appeal, thus driving up its value. For instance, one of the most collectible lines – still – is that of Star Wars figures, with many of the original run still incredibly highly sort over and commanding a huge price tag. In mint condition, natch.
But what if you can manipulate the market? What if you produce a toy that is marketed as a limited edition with an expiry date, after which it won’t be produced anymore? That’s exactly what the Ty company did with their Beanie Babies range, and this is their story.
When his father passed away, Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) was keen to start his own venture, producing a stuffed cat toy. But he didn’t want to do it alone, and when his path crossed that of neighbour Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), he just knew he needed her on board too.
It was the start of an impressive company, which just happened to have his name, which went on to produce one of the most successful toy lines of all time – Beanie Babies. But although Ty had the vision, he knew he didn’t have the business acumen to go forward. But what he did have was an eye for talent, such as Robbie, and other influential women in his life, such as Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sheila (Sarah Snook).
But creating a craze is one thing, but having the savvy to know when it ends is another.
There seems to be a trend currently for films about toys, with the release of this and Barbie in quick succession. And although this one won’t quite get the same attention, possibly because Beanie babies came in more colours than just pink – it’s still an entertaining watch.
It’s a film that in some ways promotes the notion that behind every successful man are a number of strong woman that got him there. Galifianakis, who looks surprisingly different without his facial hair, like a cross between a young John Goodman and Nathan Lane, does a great job in playing the playful creative who turns to the dark side. It’s not a surprise for anyone who saw him in the excellent show Baskets, which he didn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserved for his sublime performance.
But it’s also a film with strong female leads, with the young Viswanathan impressing as the office newbie who goes on to greater things.
It’s an interesting story, as it’s all too easy to forget what a cultural phenomenon these beanies were. But despite a strong opening, featuring a road accident and a classic Cure track, debut directors Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash almost follow in their leading man’s footsteps somewhat, by losing the plot by the film’s end; it just loses its way and direction, bursting its own bubble along the way.
It won’t go down as a collector’s item, but with some strong performances and an intriguing premise, it’s worth getting hold of.