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The Lens: $9.99 is worth it for animation fans

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2009 - Interesting to animation enthusiasts but skippable for most others is "$9.99," a sweet and sometimes cynical comedy set in metropolitan Australia.

The technique is stop-motion animation; the many characters look as if they have been painted with broad strokes. Set in the same apartment building is a series of vignettes, all based on the short stories of Edgar Keret and adapted for the screen by Keret and director Tatia Rosenthal.

The title of the movie comes from Dave Peck (voice of Samuel Johnson), an unemployed 28-year-old living with his father and brother.

Casting about for a career - Why doesn't he try cooking, which he loves? - Dave also casts about for the meaning of life. That's where $9.99 comes in, a mail-order book that claims to have all the answers.

Other voices include heavy-hitters Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia. Other characters include a small boy and his piggy bank, a lonely widower, a homeless man with wings and a supermodel.

However separately charming, the stories don't quite add up to a satisfying whole.

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.