Here is, as expected, a film in the Puppet Master series that finally plays around with the chronology established in the earlier movies, in an attempt to shake things up a bit and move forward, yet also step backward slightly at the same time (I WILL explain in a moment).
On the plus side, this is not another crudely-assembled mix of footage from the other movies. To be fair, it would be hard to do that again, so soon after the eighth instalment in this series. You also get Nazis, and who doesn't enjoy seeing Nazis get their just desserts. On the downside, it's another film that decides the story is best set in the past, and also assumes that nobody will remember when Toulon was said to have killed himself, as shown at the very start of the first movie.
David DeCoteau is once again back in the director's chair, working this time from a script by Domonic Muir (credited as August White). The two work together to provide fans with occasional moments of fun mired in a plot that consistently tries to play certain elements out more seriously than it should.
Here's the quick summary. Levi Fiehler plays Danny Coogan, a young man unable to do his bit during the war, due to a leg injury. He's helping his uncle at the Bodega Bay Inn on the night that Toulon kills himself to finally stop being pursued by Nazis. Because he had spent some time with Toulon, Danny knows about the puppets. He whisks them away. This all leads to Danny realising that Nazis are in his home town, attempting to infiltrate a factory that his girlfriend (Beth, played by Jenna Gallagher) works in. The Nazis are working with a Japanese criminal (Ozu, played by Ada Chao) and Danny realises he can do his bit for the war effort by putting a stop to their plans, with the help of his puppet pals.
There are a couple of good puppet scenes here, including the creation of a new little guy (Ninja), and this is certainly a huge step up from the previous film. Having said that, Puppet Master: Legacy was such a low bar that almost anything would have been a huge step up. So it's a shame that those involved with this one thought that the best way to revive the series would be to create a tale of wartime intrigue and thrills, while forgetting to include enough of both.
The cast are okay. Fiehler is a bit of a uncharismatic lead, making it impossible to figure out how his character ended up with such an apparently lovely girlfriend. Gallagher does a bit better in her role, despite not being given enough screentime, and Chao does what is required of her as one of the main villains. Aaron Riber is fine as Klaus, the other main villain, most at ease when he gets to run through the expected broad "act like a Nazi" bag of tricks.
DeCoteau doesn't do a terrible job, and the general look of the movie makes it feel as if a bit more care has been taken with it than was taken with the past few films, but neither he nor Muir push the material in a direction that allows for fun to take precedence over the plotting, scheming, and attempted melodrama.
It's a step in the right direction, but it's not a return to form. And I'm not sure that will ever happen now, considering how far along the series has now gone.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy a decent little set here.