Movie Review: Pat a Mat ve filmu

The stop-motion DIY handymen, among the Czech Republic's most beloved cartoon characters, are now on the big screen

Pat a Mat: The Movie


Written and directed by Marek Beneš.

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Note: like the original TV creation, there’s no dialogue in Pat and Mat: The Movie, making it suitable for audiences of all languages (and ages). 

In the opening sketch of Pat a Mat ve filmu (Pat and Mat: The Movie), the titular stop-motion characters want to put a new cupboard in their bathroom. The prime location for it is currently occupied by a sink, so naturally they rip it out of the wall, place the cupboard, and then focus their attention on setting the sink up across the room and re-routing the water pipes… 

By the end of the seven-minute segment, Pat and Mat have created a byzantine Rube Goldberg-like system of pipes that spreads across the room and ends up funnelling a stream of water into the toilet every time they use the sink.

…and that’s that. A job well done.

This is Pat and Mat in a nutshell, and there’s something innately satisfying about these DIY handymen in action: their methods are impractical yet ingenious, and even educational. Watching them problem-solve is pure joy.

As such, I had a blast with Pat and Mat: The Movie, and I think most audiences, will, too. But here’s the rub: this “movie” is simply ten of the most recent episodes of the show strung together to get to an 80-minute feature. Fans of the series will have already seen most of these, many of which can be also be found on YouTube.

They’re tied together by the framing device of the duo finding their old home movies in the attic, and rigging together a makeshift projector and screen to watch them on. Cute. But in-between the segments all we get is what might as well be the same 15-second shot of the duo changing out the reels on the projector.

That’s the only issue I take with Pat and Mat: The Movie, and it’s not an issue if you know what you’re getting into. Still, I would have loved to see some more new material or even a feature-length storyline (easily done under the guise of, say, the duo renovating a house or another large project) in the vein of last year’s wonderful Shaun the Sheep Movie.

But what we get here is still pretty wonderful, and these more recent episodes from writer-director Marek Beneš are just as good as the ones his father Lubomír Beneš, who created the series, made in the 1970s and 80s.

Some of the other DIY misadventures the handymen get themselves into here include an inventive, if illogical, bout of paper recycling, building an ingenious robotic vacuum cleaner, and a completely unnecessary orange juice press. Ach jo.

My favorite: a climactic chess game, which, like the opening segment, serves as the perfect metaphor for Pat and Mat. To enjoy the game outside, but avoid the blinding sunlight and other hazards, the handymen wind up building themselves inside.

One could, I suppose, take a deeper reading of Pat and Mat, who might provide (or have provided) commentary on Soviet-Chinese relations: the characters wear red and yellow shirts, and under communist rule Mat’s shirt color was actually changed to a neutral grey.

Or about how the pair might represent a progressive portrait of a homosexual relationship, as they seem to live and function together with no other characters in sight. Just friends?

But no deeper reading is required: there’s a kind of primal satisfaction at watching these dauntless cartoon handymen tackle real-world DIY quandaries, and despite having seen much of the material in this movie previously I got the same kick out of watching it again. And that’s that.

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