“You’re Bonnie’s Toy. You Are Going To Help Create Happy Memories That Will Last For The Rest Of Her Life…”
Come the end of Toy Story 3 back in 2010, it’s fair to say that a huge majority of both film critics and fans alike seemed to all be in universal agreement that the story of Woody and Buzz had been wrapped up rather beautifully, concluding a trilogy of award-winning animation movies which would forever be regarded as Disney Pixar’s very own pièce de résistance and a particular franchise that would never be topped. When the first whispers of a further sequel arose therefore, a wave of pandemonium and panic justifiably surfaced across social media, with the same critics and fans jaw-dropped at the idea that such a beloved trilogy could potentially be tarnished for what seemed to exist for no other reason than that of a quick cash-grab, and whilst many may head into Toy Story 4 carrying a suitcase worth of trepidation, what a huge relief it is to report that Disney Pixar’s latest is a heartwarming, hilarious and sometimes beautiful animated delight, a third sequel which mixes the return of all of the franchise favourite characters with interesting new inclusions alongside a central narrative which although does feel overly familiar for a series spanning twenty years plus, will undoubtedly work for both children and adults alike.
With a different director at the helm once again, Pixar Animation Studios stalwart, Josh Cooley, is gleefully offered the top job, taking the directing mantle away from the likes of John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich, after his work on recent animated works including Inside Out and Up, and with a script from a whole army of screenwriters, including Lasseter himself, Toy Story 4 primarily picks off where its’ predecessor ended, with Woody (Tom Hanks) and co. now being cared for by young Bonnie, the playful daughter of the parents living next door to Woody’s previous owner, Andy, and with Woody now being resigned to a limited amount of playtime, Bonnie soon finds herself a new best friend in the figure of Forky (Tony Hale) a makeshift, DIY hybrid of trash and toy whose lust for freedom results in Woody and the gang attempting to rescue him and bring him back to the loving arms of his creator. With more comedic punches than so-called contemporary comedies, an array of interesting new characters including Keanu Reeves’ (John Wick) Duke Caboom, and simply stunning animation, Toy Story 4 is indeed Disney Pixar at their most charming, and whilst the overall plot does seem slightly run-of-the-mill and franchise built, Cooley’s movie benefits from a tonal sensibility that only the best Disney movies can do, with it the type of movie which within the space of just over ninety minutes makes you smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. Oh, and I loved the massive nod to The Shining.
Overall Score: 7/10
“It’s Time To Make Some Wrong Things Right. Help Me Bring Supers Back Into The Sunlight…”
With the likes of Inside Out, Zootropolis and this year’s Coco categorically proving that the twentieth century has been open ground for a wide range of superb animation releases, the much anticipated return of the power-inflicted Parr family in Incredibles 2 after a prolonged fourteen year wait since their first appearance on the big screen back in 2004 mightily continues the winning streak which Disney is currently relishing in. Directed and written by Brad Bird, the brains behind the original, whose ventures in between the two films have included the rather enjoyable Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the not so enjoyable Tomorrowland, Incredibles 2 is a uproariously entertaining animated blockbuster, one which attempts to balance two separate story-lines as it revels in reverting particular familial stereotypes and one which ties into the conventional superhero mould by blending action spectacle with an abundance of rib-tickling humour, and whilst at times the twists and turns are rather unsurprising and the movie carries an overall feeling that two hours is far too long for most movies, let alone an animated feature, Brad Bird’s fourteen year project in the making does have flaws, but thankfully the many positives result in his latest feature being a damn fun ride.
Ditching the real life time gap and picking up three months after events of the first film, Bird’s screenplay sees the Parr family attempting to rebuild their life after the outlawing of superheroes, and with the help of Bob Odenkirk’s (Breaking Bad) Winston Deavor, a superhero-loving millionaire, the matriarchal figure of Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, The Big Sick) is placed front and centre of a scheme to reintroduce powered saviours back into favour of the world’s ever-watching eyes. With Helen’s absence therefore, the job of stay-at-home parent falls to Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, Gold) who attempts to juggle the stress of managing his three children and wife’s new found success alongside the threat of the ominous Screenslaver, a tech-savvy terrorist type whose intentions seem to be aimed towards the newly popular band of superheroes. Jumping in and out of the two main narrative strands throughout the course of the movie, the primary superhero plot involving Elastigirl and her discovery of Screenslaver is solid enough fun, incorporating flashy and bright action set pieces including a high speed monorail chase and some epilepsy inducing boss battles, however the real winning streak of the movie falls in events back home with Mr. Incredible, particularly in the discovery of infant Jack-Jack’s new-found powers, an extended gag which offers a wide range of set pieces which genuinely land up there with some of the best on-screen comedy I have ever seen. With eye-catching animation, a heartfelt centrepiece message at the centre of the story and a heavy balance of enough there to fulfil both child and adult audiences alike, Incredibles 2 isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it offers enough of a good time to be more than worth a visit to see its’ ravishing pleasures.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Never Forget How Much Your Family Cares For You…”
With Disney currently monopolising the entire cinematic landscape with the likes of Star Wars, Marvel and live-action adaptations of classic animated tales being released on what seems a bi-monthly basis, one could argue that Pixar has somewhat been backtracked to a much lower priority when placed up against its’ behemoth, franchise existing brothers, yet with the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis holding the torch of excellence for the studio it recent years, it comes at no surprise that from an audience perspective, the art of animation has arguably never been better. With the release of Coco therefore, Pixar’s hot streak successfully continues with a musically infused, heartbreaking tale of one boy’s quest for ancestral discovery during Mexico’s world famous Day of the Dead festival in a stunningly designed animated fashion. With an underlying narrative which bears more than a similarity to a few Disney Pixar predecessors, Coco thrives in a wide range of areas elsewhere, and with a beautiful acoustic-based soundtrack to make even the sternest of audience members shed a well-hidden tear, Disney’s first release of the year is a well-meaning and pleasantly played family adventure which can be admired and enjoyed by all.
Boasting arguably the most impressive and jaw-droppingly beautiful animation offered up by Pixar so far, Coco revels in its’ ability to add layers and layers of elements both comedic and emotive to prop up a underlying story which undeniably has an uncanny link to Inside Out, with both features primarily focused on their respective leading characters’ journey back home from an uncharted and unknown world, all the while learning a bit more about their purpose in life, but with a handful of stunningly designed props, including sparkling, rainbow coloured spirit animals and on-screen guitar work which relievingly looks genuinely authentic, Coco is much much more than just a continuation of a story many are well versed in already. With a Mexican Mariachi infused, guitar based soundtrack at the centre of the narrative and a genuinely startling twist to set up a rivetingly exciting concluding act, Coco is everything you would expect from a classic Disney outing, and by examining darker themes including the afterlife and the importance of family remembrance, Coco is an ideas laden animation which brings more to the table than one might expect, and for a movie to successfully connect with an audience filled with both adults and children, you can’t really ask for much more. The golden age of animated works joyously continues.
Overall Score: 8/10
Life of Riley
When it comes to my final countdown of this years’ best and brightest movies, at least two films within that list will be that of an animated pedigree, with the first being the wonderful Song of the Sea, released only two weeks ago, which proved to be one of the most blissfully entertaining and emotion rattling films that I had seen so far this year with gorgeous visuals, a simply gorgeous design and a soundtrack that rivals any classic musical companion to date. The second on that list however, without a doubt, will be this weeks’ new Disney Pixar release, Inside Out, a film so masterful in reaching all its’ cinematic targets and avenues that it begs the question whether Disney can ever outdo itself ever again in creating a film that not only touches the heart, but touches the mind too with concepts and ideas that are set to bring a overarching sense of joy out in everyone, even if they are too stubborn to admit it.
The story of Inside Out focuses on the life of young Riley Anderson and her five manifestations of emotions that reside within her mind who control the way in which her life is run, whether it be saving memories of joy and happiness, creating islands of Riley’s personality or just finding solutions to day-to-day problems and situations young Riley finds herself in. Of these emotions, Joy (Voiced by Amy Poehler) believes the best way for Riley to live her life is to constantly be happy and only resort to the other emotions of either Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness if completely necessary, yet Riley and her emotions are turned upside down when she is forced to relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco, resulting in a range of stark changes that set Joy and co. on a wild quest to adapt to their inhabitants sudden and relentless changes. From the plot synopsis alone, it is obvious that Inside Out is a movie that can be related with by almost everyone and anyone, regardless of age, with the youngest audience being there for the gorgeous visuals and design, the high comedic and slapstick output and relationship to the character of Riley, whilst the older audience being there to enjoy the relationship between Riley and her parents, helped by a deep understanding of the films’ main idea that growing up brings with it a rafter of changes, both physically and mentally.
Of the many positives within the film, the simple, yet brilliant concepts that continued to pop up were astounding to behold, with trains of thought, islands of personality, imaginary friends and subconscious fears all being expertly designed, resulting in a roller-coaster ride of emotions with moments of sheer sadness, uplifting joy, and an overall sense of wonder that the film willingly creates. For example, one young girl in the cinema showing I was in actually broke down in tears during the film and although I was never going to follow suit, I have to admit, there were times my tongue was being well and truly bit, particularly in regards to the final scene of Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong. I’m such an emotional wreck. These collage of magical elements that encompassed Inside Out throughout its’ runtime results in making the film not only one of the best of the year, but a true Disney Classic, one of which will live long in the memory of all that choose to watch it.
Overall Score: 10/10