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Conflicting toy movies and two films to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day

Also: Anna, the assassin with a slight feminist bent and a Fakir’s international wanderings

Hollywood’s been whining again. The summer sequels have been underperforming. At least one is a disaster. That stops now. The latest Toy Story may save the day. And Disney has another answer too. It is re-releasing its big moneymaker The Avengers: Endgame next week, with a few added bits. A full scene and a tribute to Marvel honcho, the late Stan Lee among them. Why? The film is just $45 million short of beating the biggest moneymaker ever, Avatar. What a feat that would be to top it. And a week after that, there’s a new Spider-Man film.

This week we’ve got:

Toy Story 4: 4 stars

Child’s Play: 2 ½

The City Before the City + Bihttoš: 3

Anna: 2 ½

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir: 3

 

TOY STORY 4: This is something of a miracle. Rather than slide like many movie series, this one gives us the best one yet. And that’s about a decade after it seemed to have ended, when in Part 3, Andy gave his toys away. He had grown up. Bonnie, the new owner, favours a few of them, lets Woody (Tom Hanks) languish in the closet and faces her own growing up crisis: kindergarten. What that leads to is the most emotionally complex film of the four. It probes deeper into a continuing theme: the relationship between children and their toys and most emphatically the toys’ need for a child to love them. It’s a most heartfelt fantasy. And since it's opening in 4,400 theatres all at once, you can be sure it’ll be big.

 Woody, at his protective best, sneakily goes along with Bonnie to school, sees her create a new toy she calls Forky, out of a plastic fork, a pipe cleaner and a popsicle stick, and then has to help her whenever she misplaces it. He also has to calm Forky with his existential crisis; he thinks he’s trash and repeatedly dives into garbage cans. Both things happen several times when the family goes on a road trip which also brings part of Woody’s past back to him.

He finds Bo Peep, his girlfriend from the first two films, (Annie Potts) in an antique store. He gets her out but is pursued by a needy and chatty doll who wants his voicebox and has a trio of creepy ventriloquist dolls helping her. That mix of sentimental and menacing is a hallmark of these Pixar films. This gets eerie at times but not really scary.

 

Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) has a few amusing scenes and the other toys are there but don’t figure much. New characters do though:  Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key as wisecracking stuffed-toy prizes from a midway game and Keanu Reeves as a stunt motorcycle rider (the greatest in Canada, he says). They’re all big in the rescue mission this film inevitably builds up to. The animation, the colours and the excitement are tops. Even better, the interplay of the toys and their child owners and the needs they fulfill for each other is the heart of this movie. They’re delicately imagined on the way to the spectacle. (5th Avenue, Dunbar, International Village, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres everywhere) 4 out of 5

CHILD’S PLAY: It takes an unusual personality to release this the same time as Toy Story 4. This is the anti-Toy Story movie. It’s not about the love that toys bring to children. It’s about making them sacred and even more than that: throwing death by slashing at them. Obviously it isn’t for them. Teenagers and people who hate children, sure, go. It’s stylishly directed (by Lars Klevberg), filmed  here in Vancouver and has plenty of that “deranged Chucky humour“ the fans want.

 Chucky was a doll infested with the soul of a serial killer (a voodoo thing) through seven movies starting in 1988. In this revival, he wants to be known by that name but is officially “Buddi,” a high tech toy designed to bond with a child, read his wishes and like a super Siri or Alexa  get him what he needs. He just wants to please. However, he’s defective because a disgruntled worker in a factory in Vietnam turned off some safety features.

A single mom (Aubrey Plaza) gives him to her son Andy and soon is flooded with consequences. Buddi, voiced by Mark Hamill, misconstrues what a knife is for, why a Texas Chainsaw film on TV is funny and how to deal with a creepy boyfriend and a cat that scratches. At first it’s a caution about submitting to technology. Then it powers down into a standard slasher film with a frantic end. Curiously, it feels longer than the 90 minutes it is. Burnaby’s Bron Creative helped finance it.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

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