Oscar Marathon 2020, Pt. 9: ‘Toy Story 4,’ ‘Bombshell’ and ‘Missing Link’

This time out: A pair of animated front-runners and a real misfire.

Toy Story 4: If there had to be a Toy Story 4 (and, let’s be honest, there really didn’t have to be), this is the best possible Toy Story 4 we could have gotten.

The Pixar franchise ended pretty perfectly with its third installment in 2010, but damn if the filmmakers didn’t find a new story to tell — one with a pretty metatextual message about fears of obsoletion and aging. (Really fun, light viewing just days after my birthday this summer, let me tell you.)

This fourth chapter isn’t as masterful as its predecessors, particularly the devastating third one, but it still engenders existential questions about life, free will, responsibility, friendship, loss and rejection. Heady stuff for a kids’ movie, though the Toy Story movies never were really just for kids.

So, in short, it’s one of the stronger films of 2019 (and, just because it’s a Pixar film, a decided favorite for the Oscar, though Klaus did just sweep at the Annie Awards). But, is it OK to hope that it’s finally the last in the series?

(Nominated for Best Animated Feature)

Bombshell: Outside of Charlize Theron’s scarily accurate impersonation of Megyn Kelly, is there really anything to Bombshell?

Sure, it makes a little noise in its recounting of the environment of sexual harassment at Fox News, but screenwriter Charles Randolph and director Jay Roach pitch it as a dark comedy (a la The Big Short) without adding anything in the vein of actual humor. There are some strong moments, particularly in an encounter between serial harasser Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) and a new employee (a composite character played by Margot Robbie). But otherwise, the film’s too glib to have much of an impact. Had it gone deeper into how the lives of these women were really impacted by this nightmare, as well as honestly grappling with the damage they were causing themselves by dint of working where they did — well, it would have been a different movie entirely. But at least it would have been more explosive.

(Nominated for Best Actress [Theron], Best Supporting Actress [Robbie] and Best Makeup/Hairstyling)

Missing Link: I thought this one, the latest from animated studio Laika (ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls) had totally fallen off the radar until its surprise win earlier this month at the Golden Globes.

It had certainly fallen off mine, I should say. I didn’t catch it in theaters, and the screener disc just kept getting pushed down to the bottom of the pile. Even when it was added to Hulu, I resisted it for some reason.

Of course, when I finally got around to watching it post-Globes, I found it just as delightful as many of Laika’s past offerings (I wasn’t really crazy about their last, Kubo and the Two Strings, but otherwise, their record has been impeccable).

I liked that the romantic subplot took a back seat to the developing relationship between pompous explorer Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) he’s helping travel to Asia to find a hidden kingdom of yeti. Even more so, I liked the eye-popping visuals, rendered in outstanding stop-motion animation. The amount of work that went into this film is mind boggling.

And even more than all of that, I like what this film represents: That there’s still room for original, non-sequel storytelling for animation fans of all ages.

(Nominated for Best Animated Feature)

Up next: The Edge of Democracy, Rocketman and The Lion King

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