Toy Story 4 (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Toy Story 4 (2019) from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Rated G. Animated, Comedy, Action, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Feature Film

Description (from the film case): Pixar Animation Studios proudly presents the adventure of a lifetime! When Woody, Buzz and the gang join Bonnie on a road trip with her new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, the innocent little spork’s hilarious antics launch Woody on a wild quest filled with unexpected new characters—and one long-lost friend!

My thoughts: “To infinity…” “…and beyond.”

I’ve been following the Toy Story story and characters for a quarter of a century. And I’ve been nervous every time a sequel has come out, as second and third movies can be notorious for taking a good thing downhill and making you wish folks would’ve just left the original awesomeness alone.

Could filmmakers maintain this particular awesomeness for a fourth whole movie? Well. Turns out, they’ve done just that.

I mean, I could go on in detail about the amazing detail of the art and animation, the wonderful character development, the hilarity (and downright creepiness, sometimes) and action and relatability of it all. But what may get me most is that the Toy Story movies are just that: a story. Not just a nice little amusing tale, but a story of depth and heart, of excitement and nostalgia. Imaginative and highly accessible genius coming to life onscreen—four movies in a row.

Outstanding!

Whether or not you’ve been here the whole quarter of a century, be sure to watch the movies in order, if you can.

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Hair Love (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Hair Love (2019) from Sony Pictures Animation
Rated G. Animated, African American, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Short Film

My thoughts: It’s simple really, but a lot—and plenty relatable for so many of us. It’s an Oscar-winning short family film about a father facing the daunting task of doing his daughter’s hair. But the story is more than that, of course.

Refreshing and clever, amusing and adorable, touching and real, this picture is. It’s no small feat for a film to manage to be everything in fewer than seven minutes.

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Haven’t seen Hair Love yet? Take a look!

 

Klaus (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Klaus (2019) from The SPA Studios
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

Description (from Netflix): A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.

My thoughts: I heard a little positive buzz via Twitter about the return of 2D animation for Christmas, and being the lover of holiday flicks that I am, I decided to check this movie out. It had an entertaining enough start for me, and I settled in to watch something with middling but adequately fun humor. You know, mild amusement wrapped in about an hour and a half of holiday spirit.

I had no idea I would eventually laugh out loud as much as I did, or that I’d wind up with tears running down my face at more than one point in the movie. And at the last moment of the last scene that punctuates it all, I threw my hands straight up in the air, feeling as oddly triumphant as I was thoroughly touched.

Yes, this movie is fun and funny, cute and Christmassy, but it’s also a rather brilliant work of storytelling, adding clever and imaginative details and twists to bring a legend to life, so that even though you already know what’s going to happen at times, the story as a whole is fresh and refreshing.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to wind up weeping as I did, but don’t prejudge or dismiss this as “just a kid’s cartoon” or “only a Christmas comedy.” It’s an entertaining and beautifully developed story of friendship and family, love and loss, discovery and growth, risk and adventure, reconciliation and redemption. It has to go on my list of all-time favorite Christmas movies.

And yes—I do dig the wonderful 2D animation!

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Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Akeelah and the Bee (2006) from Lionsgate
Rated PG. Drama, African American Actors, Family Film
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from the film case): Akeelah Anderson’s love for words leads her to enter a number of spelling contests. Tutored by many and opposed by some, Akeelah unwittingly unites a neighborhood in her daring quest to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

My thoughts: This movie is everything it means to be.

Granted, a good amount of the acting looks like acting. The level of corn is of little surprise, and the few instances of language got a brief eye-roll or two from me—for their corny deliveries if for nothing else.

But the story gets its inspirational job done. Friendship, family, community, hard work and determination, integrity in competition, hope, healing, second chances, and believing in oneself. All that.

An ultra feel-good underdog story that’s worth the watch.

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