Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2019. Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures. Original story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Josh Cooley, Valerie LaPointe, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Martin Hynes, Stephany Folsom, Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom. Cinematography by Jean-Claude Kalache, Patrick Lin. Produced by Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera, Galyn Susman. Music by Randy Newman. Production Design by Bob Pauley. Film Editing by Axel Geddes. Academy Awards 2019. Golden Globe Awards 2019. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2019. Online Film Critics Awards 2019. Philadelphia Film Critics Awards 2019. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2019. Washington Film Critics Awards 2019.
The secret life of children’s toys has been amusing and amazing us since Pixar made their first fully computer-animated feature film in 1995, dazzling us not only with a breakthrough in technology but with a strength in storytelling that netted them success both at the box office and with critics (not to mention becoming the first animated film to receiving an Oscar nomination for writing). Three sequels later, there is still much to enjoy in the return to this world despite the fact that the filmmaking team hasn’t really come up with anything all that different from what we’ve had before, and the proceedings are fun but the stakes don’t seem to be quite as high as they were in the past (too many negative reports of children traumatized by the scariest sequences in what was otherwise a very successful Part 3, possibly?) Years after belonging to Andy, Woody (still voiced so amicably by Tom Hanks) and company are now the property of a four year-old named Bonnie, who at the beginning of the film experiences the universal trauma of the first day of kindergarten. The only thing that makes her day a success is her haphazardly crafting together a figure from a spork that she names Forky and who, once finding himself with sentient life when humans aren’t looking, is voiced by Tony Hale and doesn’t understand his own existence: having been made from elements found in the trash, Forky keeps trying, in one of the funniest sequences in the entire series, to throw himself away and Woody has to keep him in the land of the living, believing this new creation to be the only thing keeping Bonnie stable in this new stage in her development. When Bonnie’s parents take an RV trip to an amusement park, Woody and friends get split up as he is reunited with his long-lost love Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and has to outwit a vintage doll (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who lives in an antique store and will stop at nothing to get his voice box; as their challenges increase and Woody’s anxiety to make things right starts to drive his friends away, he is forced to face the possibility that what he is working this hard for isn’t Bonnie’s mental safety but to quash his own feelings of irrelevance. Buzz Lightyear has too small a role to play in this one, Forky’s suicide attempts are the only thing that come close to the fun of Buzz being reprogrammed to evil in the last one, but even at its most clever there’s no denying that these films are no longer interested in being much more than a collection of superb action sequences. As entertainment this more than passes muster, not to mention that what is clearly a major advancement in animation technology is very evident on screen, but one cannot help but miss the deeper themes that made the first film so charming (or the perfectly pitched attitude of sentimentality that made the second one equally good).