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When I was playing Little League baseball in Barberton, Ohio, I would often pass by a run-down red-brick building on the way home from practice. Once, I peered inside an open door and saw workers making risque rubber goods, including water bottles with the face and naked figure of Marilyn Monroe (or rather a woman I imagined to be her). Noticing me gazing wide-eyed at the scene, the workers grinned conspiratorially and I scampered away.

Watching Yuki Tanada’s “Romance Doll,” which unfolds in a similar sex toy workshop, albeit one more technically advanced, I flashed back on this childhood glimpse of a hidden world. Based on Tanada’s own novel, the film gets laughs from its setting, while keeping its comedy sympathetic and droll rather than jokey and strident.

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