June 26, 2019

Play Time: Box Office Toys Both Good and Bad

Movie Dope

With another holiday fast approaching, the summer box office is a little chill this weekend. The Conjuring Universe keeps expanding, with its creepy doll mascot getting a third entry in Annabelle Comes Home. First-time director Gary Dauberman wrote the mostly reviled Annabelle and the better received Annabelle: Creation. The trailers promise standard horror fare that is hopefully superior to the last couple of Conjuring spin-offs. 

Academy Award winner Danny Boyle and Love Actually’s Richard Curtis team up for the fantastical musical Yesterday. A struggling musician named Jack (Himesh Patel) wakes up in a world without the Beatles and becomes the No. 1 artist in this alternate world. It is hard to determine whether audiences will love or cringe at this summer counterprogramming. 

Some local theater is likely to screen The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith, but does anyone remember its 17-year-old, Anne Hathaway-starring predecessor? (Note: Hathaway does not return for the sequel.) 

If, like me, you have yet to see Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zomcom, The Dead Don’t Die, Ciné has you covered starting June 28. Pavarotti, the new documentary from Ron Howard and his The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years collaborators, is also scheduled to open at Ciné, where you can still catch The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg’s period romance is one of the year’s best reviewed films) and Shadow (the new film from China’s acclaimed Zhang Yimou) through June 27. 

On June 28, Pagemasters, the kids’ book and movie club at the Oconee County Library, will debate which is better—the book or the movie of The Tale of Despereaux. A screening is included. No movies are scheduled at Flicker, but you can still enjoy Summer Blockbuster Pictionary on June 27. 

Now, which recent toy story is right for you?

TOY STORY 4 (G) Of course, nearly a decade after the superb Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4 continues the adventures of Woody (v. Tom Hanks) and Buzz (v. Tim Allen) without losing a step. Now a plaything belonging to soon-to-be-kindergartener Bonnie (v. Madeleine McGraw), Woody is no longer the king of the toy room and takes it upon himself to protect his charge’s new favorite toy, an animated spork dubbed Forky (v. Tony Hale), who keeps trying to throw himself in the trash. When Forky escapes during a late summer vacation, Woody heads out on his own to save the googly-eyed utensil. Instead, the vintage sheriff doll finds an old friend, Bo Peep (v. Annie Potts), and new antagonist in Gabby Gabby (v. Christina Hendricks), another vintage doll interested in Woody’s undamaged voice box. 

As moviegoers have come to expect from the greatest animated franchise of all time, Toy Story 4 prepares young and old with lessons on loss, growing up and moving on through the sweetly humorous antics of toys come to life. The new additions are amusing (especially Key and Peele’s Ducky and Bunny), and, at this rate of increasing creative returns, these movies could go on forever, despite an ending that leaves major questions about the future of these friendships. Might I suggest featuring the Keanu Reeves-voiced Canadian stuntman toy, Duke Caboom, in either a short or the next entry?    

CHILD’S PLAY (R) Child’s Play purists are certainly setting the internet on fire upon the release of this latest horror reboot. First, series creator Don Mancini, who wrote all seven previous entries, had no role in this remake. Second, Chucky is no longer voiced by Brad Dourif, though Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill should appease most complainers—Hamill’s voice work is extensive and includes a long-running tenure as Batman’s No. 1 villain, the Joker. 

The third issue may be the biggest sticking point for Chucky traditionalists: The redheaded doll’s evil is no longer caused by demonic possession by serial killer Charles Lee Ray—a change which explains the aforementioned second point. The Buddi doll taken home by Andy (Gabriel Bateman) and his single mom, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), is a self-learning, smart doll capable of controlling most of your household devices, and his safety protocols have been deactivated. As a result, Chucky—as the doll inexplicably names himself—can curse and kill, all so he can make his best friend, Andy, happy. 

The newest Child’s Play gets a lot of fun mileage out of its concept. We love our technology, but how much is too much control to give away to smart computers? The movie offers nearly as much comedy as horror, though the kills are impressively grotesque. It would help if a few of the characters were more appealing than Chucky. It is fine to supply a few jerks for Chucky’s murder spree, but audiences probably should not hope the evil doll kills everybody in the end.