Tuesday 22 October 2019

Film of the week: Toy Story 4

Cert: G; Now showing

Hilarious, charming characters pedal their way through crisp, beautiful, tangible animations
Hilarious, charming characters pedal their way through crisp, beautiful, tangible animations

There was an intake of breath when it was announced that Toy Story was back for a fourth chapter. The jewel in Pixar's crown and a cinema trilogy rivalled for brilliance only by The Godfather, Lord of The Rings and a handful of others, the feeling from many of us was to leave the thing the hell alone because there was a gold-standard legacy here that would be at risk of tarnishing.

But Woody and Buzz are to Pixar what Mickey and Donald are to the Mouse House (who, as it happens, bought Pixar in 2006, four years before the release of Toy Story 3), and fears that any efforts or expense would be spared this time are quickly dispelled.

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With Andy having grown up and moved on, the toys are now in the loving care of little Bonnie, who is taking her first uncertain steps in kindergarten. While there, she constructs a new toy out of rubbish called Forky who reluctantly takes pride of place in her affections. Woody (still voiced with gorgeous sincerity by Tom Hanks) is keen for Forky to do his toy duties and bring Bonnie happiness and security, but when all the playthings are brought on a family road trip and Forky escapes, it sets in train a mighty adventure.

You really do forget just how brilliant these films are. Hilarious and charming characters pedal their way through crisp, beautiful, tangible animations, while writers Andrew Stanton (who has been with the franchise from the get-go) and Stephany Folsom locate that trademark Pixar balance of silliness, action, parent-aimed winks and wet-eyed sentiment.

The voice cast alone is certification of the esteem Toy Story is now held in. Newbies Keanu Reeves, Mel Brooks, Christina Hendricks and Jordan Peele join Joan Cusack, Patricia Arquette and Don Rickles, and no one could blame them.

At times, it even feels overloaded, as if a couple of new characters are surplus to needs, but such is the overflowing cup of splendour.

Kudos to director Josh Cooley on his debut.

★★★★ Hilary A White

 

Child's Play

Cert: 16; Now showing

News just in: Fears of the robot apocalypse are apparently back on the table now that we are living in an age of technology smothering our every thought and action. Thirty-one years after a doll possessed by the soul of a murderer terrorised cinema-goers, Chucky is back. But there is no Haitian voodoo this time around, oh no. There's something far more evil at play - malfunctioning connectivity settings!

Other than that, Lars Klevberg (making his feature debut) and writer Tyler Burton Smith are all about nostalgia, placing the slasher-tastic lunacy amid a grimy, trash-strewn America that clashes somewhat with the shiny, Google-age tech doing the tormenting.

A vengeful factory worker in Vietnam decides to tamper with the settings on a "Buddi" doll after being sacked, removing its inhibitions and giving any malicious intent free rein.

In the west, this interactive toy is all the rage, so when single mother Karen brings home a faulty one to partially deaf son Andy, she figures it might be an answer to his loneliness. After being linked up to the household devices, "Chucky" settles in and all is good. Well, until he spots the steak knives.

This sorry-looking reboot is too cartoonish to be taken seriously as a slasher horror but not funny enough to fulfil its notions of being subversive or blackly comic. The doll itself - voiced by Mark "Skywalker" Hamill for some bizarre reason - is an admittedly unholy mix of Harry Styles and Ramsay Bolton, but it remains an oddly insipid threat nonetheless, even while brandishing a sharp implement.

Can't say we approve of the various displays of "ginger-ism" throughout the screenplay, either. From house cats to Karen's horrid boyfriend to the killer doll itself, red hair is treated as a repugnant handicap, which is not on. ★★ Hilary A White

 

Brightburn

Cert: 16; Now showing 

We must be running out of ideas for things for superpeople to do. Where the traditional dichotomy sees superhero vs arch-nemesis, Brightburn is set in a world where rather than caped crusaders being challenged by supervillains, the supervillain is allowed to run amok. "Superhero horror", it's being hailed as.

It's all very "Clark Kent" at the outset. Rusted grain silos and check shirts provide the scenery as Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) are struggling to conceive.

One night while trying to get one past the goalie, a loud noise is heard from the nearby woods. This, it turns out, is a baby from outer space and thus the answer to their problems.

But when puberty kicks in and dark powers start coursing through Brandon (Jackson A Dunn), he turns into quite the little brat.

David Yarovesky's film unashamedly uses the transformative age and the ensuing parental headaches as a narrative cornerstone for the carnage that unfolds, but as it steadily drifts into heavy-handed formula, Brightburn wobbles and becomes just another take on generic possession horror. Banks holds the whole thing together. ★★★ Hilary A White

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