Whimsical barely begins to describe this mix of cartoon and live-action from animator Emily Hubley (best known for her work in Hedwig and the Angry Inch), but it also underestimates The Toe Tactic’s wild originality. Equal parts family drama and chronicle of urban longing, it inventively probes the feeling (or hope) that, for better or worse, somebody somewhere is pulling our strings.
In this case, the string pullers are four one-dimensional dogs and a bird, who play a metaphysical card game that influences the life of twentysomething Gotham temp Mona Peek (Rabe), coming to terms with her father’s death. These animals, voiced by the great Eli Wallach, among others, occasionally take human (and genuine canine) form to bring Mona into contact with various other lonely New Yorkers, including a sensitive elevator operator (Old Joy’s London), and orchestrate a climactic reunion between daughter and mother (Place). Hubley’s sister’s band, Yo La Tengo (maybe you’ve heard of them), provides a suitably bouncy score.
The Toe Tactic doesn’t amount to much more than its playful title implies, and it’s as edgeless as can be, but there’s a quiet power to its observations on the complicated schematics of human grief.