Benny Loves You isn’t an Annabelle-brand supernatural baddie, but a slasher-tastic romp where your discarded toys come back for their revenge. It shares DNA with movies like Child’s Play and Demonic Toys, with just a dash of Toy Story sprinkled into the mix. The nasty kills and lighthearted tone make even a dog death into a comedic moment of ridiculousness. The tone is too often wildly confused, attempting a balance of over-the-top silly and over-the-top stupid. It tips a little more into the ‘stupid’ lane than I expected, buoyed only by the strength of the premise and the too-cute plush Benny doll.
After his parents die in tragic accidents when trying to surprise Jack (Karl Holt, also the writer and director) for his birthday, he develops a new outlook on life. This includes tossing out some of the old to make room for the new, and this comes in the form of Jack’s favorite childhood plush, Benny. When Benny ends up being thrown away, he comes magically to life and re-inserts himself into Jack’s life. It becomes one misadventure after another as Jack is forced to clean up after Benny’s messes, Norman-Bates-style.
British humor reigns supreme here, straight down to the editing. In a conference room scene, a plea for “who wants to give their children AIDS for Christmas” after a presentation for a new robot frankly comes off both distasteful and off-color. The human jokes barely land, but every single section that allows Benny to giggle and beg for cuddles (or turn to a murderous kill mode to dispatch people and present them with a “ta-da”) was pure popcorn entertainment.
I think ultimately I love the idea of Benny Loves You a bit more than the execution. Although it’s a total blast to see little Benny running amok and spreading chaos, the lead character of Jack isn’t a good enough protagonist. The best parts are when Benny Loves You embraces its horror roots. When Jack uses Benny as inspiration to develop his Scare Bears line of toys for a new demographic, Benny acts as a literal model for his ideas. This allows for a parody of everything from Leatherface to The Nun, and a later sequence even features a fun reference to The Matrix. Creepy Benny in the sheets is a mirror-image of Halloween’s Michael Myers. A part where several characters barricade Benny into a room full of people just so they can escape with their own lives embraces the film’s early comic sensibilities. Seeing Benny hack-and-slash his way through his victims, toss scalding tea into their face, and rage an all-out war against a robotic creation gave me some of what I wanted out of the entire feature.
Gory kills—the sole excellent aspect beyond Benny’s impressive design and animations—are varied and brutal. It takes things to a level so outrageous that all you can do is laugh. The first death, where Benny presents a severed head with a giggle and an energetic flourish, sets the stage for all the comical ones to follow. If you can get past the flat human drama, Benny Loves You will pull you in tight for its snuggly embrace. Benny himself makes the case for a franchise all his own. If there’s one lesson to be learned, never throw away your favorite childhood toys; they have feelings, too!
Benny Loves You pulls itself out of the trash and crawls to select theaters on May 7th, and will be available on demand May 11th. A Blu-Ray release will follow on June 8th.