The Morning After: Sep. 9, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Toy Story 4

A film series that gets to go out on a high note is a rare thing. Just look at the Jurassic Park films, X-Men, Terminator, Alien, and myriad others. Toy Story 4 may not be the best film in the series, a distinction still held by Toy Story 2 followed closely by Toy Story 3, but it’s an incredible improvement over the original and filled with the kind of series-ending situations that make poignant sense.

With Toy Story creator and series mainstay John Lasseter drummed out of Pixar for his sexual harassment, there hasn’t been anyone to shepherd the film through the creative process like he could. Toy Story 3 had been directed by Pixar titan Lee Unkrich, but this final film was helmed by Inside Out co-writer Josh Cooley, a figure who had yet to direct any of Disney’s big screen efforts, longform or short. Cooley shows the greenness of a low-level animator who understands the concepts of animation, but hasn’t had sufficient experience to execute them. The strength of the story outweighs Cooley’s inexperience behind the camera, which helps the film succeed far more than it might have otherwise.

The terrific voice cast has returned with the notable exception of Don Rickles, who died two years earlier, but whose voice remains a part of the film, having been cobbled together from archival footage. Tom Hanks as our stalwart central figure Woody continues to deliver the best vocal work of the series, though without being surrounded by the talented efforts of returning Annie Potts (Bo Peep), and new contributors Tony Hale as Forky, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Ducky and Bunny, and Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, wouldn’t have succeeded nearly as easily.

This is an animated film from a studio that has become accustomed to churning out high quality productions form imaginative minds that embed themselves in our psyches, Even when the central figures aren’t facing insurmountable odds, the waterworks still flow at the simple elegance of certain sequences. Toy Story 4 and the series that precedes it represent the best that Pixar has to offer. While a subtle downturn of quality from the excellence of its immediate predecessor looms over the entire film, there’s little question that the worthwhile journey has come to a fitting and bittersweet conclusion.

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