This past week, upon request from my daughter, I went out to the theatre to see one of the new Disney remakes or sequels. There are so many these days that I have to make sure I am precise. I decided to see Toy Story 4, rather than The (live/life like) Lion King.
In short, unless you are James Bond, it is difficult to keep the momentum up on a recurring set of characters. They just seem to have lost out on most of the ideas for them. Or it can appear as though the creators are trying to be cute and deliberately find a different tangent that blatantly avoids the previous stories. But for the movie at hand, the basic storyline has the various toys in Bonnie’s room now. She was given the toys by Andy headed off to College. Bonnie is just heading into school age. She has fun playing the the toys, and has decided that Woody (Tom Hanks) isn’t nearly as fun as other toys in her make-believe games. Woody takes it upon himself to strike out and help on Orientation Day at school. Now Woody has always a thing for Bo Peep (Annie Potts) but this has been an infrequent tease every now and then. Bonnie on her first manages with Woody’s help to create a new toy out of a fork, googly eyes, pipe cleaner and broken tongue depresser. The resulting “Forky” becomes a new favourite. Things happen. A search has to take place and Woody and various members of the crew (some new and some older) engage in the quest. Meanwhile Bonnie and adults head off for a few days in an RV for a pre-school weekend trip away. Some toys are brought along.
I have always enjoyed the stories created by Pixar. I especially like their parenting philosophies and how they coincide with my own. I regard Finding Nemo as one of the great animated films, not just because the father is the hero, but because through Dory and others Marlin realizes that his helicopter/smothering ways with Nemo aren’t helping him, but rather hurting him. As Dory would say “funny thing to promise” (that nothing would ever happen to his son Nemo) as “if you never let anything happen to him, then nothing would every happen to him. Not so fun for little Harpo”. Funny, and true. Pixar also gave us slothful adults and younger kids in Wall-E as machines do more and more for the humans. But here, we have two parents stopping everything and searching for the misplaced Forky who has his own ideas as to where he properly belongs. Can you really teach somebody to think differently about their place in the world if they believe something wholeheartedly? Ponder that one. Oh, and they stop their planned departure from the site they drove to in order to find these missing toys. They are encouraging this very behaviour that they shunned in Finding Nemo. You lose a toy, then you learn to live with it. Instead, the entitled child starts realizing she can turn Mom and Dad upside down with just a little toy. Bad Pixar. Very bad.
We also have a sidestory which starts out mirroring the Teddy Ruxpin Lotso character in Toy Story 3. But then it doesn’t but there is a part of me that thinks I have a hard timing swallowing redemption in a character that aims to take by force something that doesn’t belong to them to better themselves, and move ahead with their own dreams. That seems pretty damn selfish, especially when you word it like that. It is. But that addresses the more evil or bad aspect of the storyline. Doesn’t there always have to be a bad character? Maybe not but the making them good (or better later) doesn’t quite work either.
I have to admit that I think that the new character with a base in the former 70s toy by Evel Knievel is brilliant. Not only in the execution but also in the voice. You’ll know it when you hear it, and it is spot on.
So in the end, this story deals with the Woody arc more satisfyingly than others. Characters like Jesse, and Potato Heads and Rex take a back seat. I wasn’t elated in this film. It could have waited for the smaller screen. Pixar, I think, should spend their time working on new innovative projects like Up, or The Incredibles but NOT sequels to them. Original stories that are charming and fun with good animation and a good message for adults and kids alone. So see Toy Story 4 if you need to, or decide to encourage Pixar to strive for better and keep your money in your pocket to reward a more unique experience. Disney may need to learn the Walt Disney lesson that you don’t need to release films every year in animation. Snow White was 1937. Pinocchio 1940. There were 2 years and 4 years between Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty.
On Netflix, I watched the TIFF film from last year Tell It To the Bees. This is a 1950s story in Britain where a smalltown doctor begins a relationship with a mother of one of the boys in town. This is very much similar to the structure and challenges faced in America at the time with Cate Blanchett in Carol. I give nothing away in saying this as the movie poster shows this and more on it. Times were different. Norms were different. An adulterous and abusive husband is seen in the times as preferable for a woman (and child for that matter) than a woman on her own, or one who is attracted to others of the same sex. Anna Paquin stars, as well as Bonnie and Clyde’s (tv version) Holliday Grainger. This was also a PG version of this story. But suffice it to say that I was pleased I didn’t spend $25 a ticket to see this, but rather waited and saw on Nelflix. It was okay. I don’t need to see it again. I think that Carol addressed the issue better. I struggled at times with how badly the writing team wanted to find a way to make the bees the real protagonist of the story, or in any case the Supporting Actor. It didn’t quite work.
On Netflix too there was a documentary on Woodstock out. It was a story not about the music, but on getting the event pulled together. It isn’t all that gripping or interesting. There were some astounding failures to plan very well, but that had more to do with lack of time than anything I suppose. Acts who decided to miss this event, I imagine would grow to regret the decision (like Bob Dylan). Those who returned home early Sunday and missed the sensational guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix would also kick themselves. I cannot recommend this, as the music was not the focal point, and that really was the point of the whole exercise. So spend your time re-engaging with Season 2 Mindhunter rather than this I would suggest.