The fact that the characters are animated seems almost secondary after a while, because we know them and root for them anyway. Woody (the voice of Tom Hanks) is the well-meaning sheriff, whose loyalty is to Andy, the little boy who’s now grown up and ready to go off to college. Andy’s Mom says he has to decide what to do with the stuff in his room: either throw it out, bag it and put it in the attic, or donate it to the local day care center.
The toys inadvertently wind up in the donation bag, and they are terribly abused at the day care center. Everybody’s toys are nobody’s possession. And there are bullies among the toys there, when they all come out at night to play, as well. So our ol’ favorites like Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Ken and Barbie and Slinky Dog and all the rest seem destined, like “Puff the Magic Dragon,” to just sadly slip away. Ah, but our fearless little gang of inanimates manages somehow to save each other from destruction and return safely to Andy, who tenderly places them in the care of a little neighbor girl with just the right sense of imagination and wonder, pushing that happy/sad button within even the most callous of adults. This is great filmmaking for viewers of all ages. And in places, simply hilarious, as well.
“Toy Story 3” deserves all the accolades and attention it’s now receiving, because it’s just so incredibly winsome — without even trying too hard!
“Jonah Hex” is part animated, part old-fashioned Western with a comic book feel. The twist is that Jonah Hex, the primary character, looks like the bad guy — all ugly and taciturn and violent. We’re supposed to believe that he used to be a normal rancher with a wife and family who went over to the Dark Side when his whole household was brutally murdered before his eyes, and then his face was permanently scarred with a scalding hot branding iron.
Well, that may be enough to make anybody mean. He becomes a merciless bounty hunter, with a price on his own head, but his relentlessness is suddenly needed by President U.S. Grant to hunt down a terrorist who threatens the whole post-Civil War peace. See, all we have to do to find Osama Bin Laden is send Jonah Hex after him. Well, of course the characters are caricatured. What can we expect out of pulp fiction cowboys? But it’s so humorless, so formulaic, and so dreary that we find ourselves wishing for … Buzz Lightyear in his space suit suddenly doing a salsa dance?
“Coco And Igor” is, in its own way, just as taciturn and formulaic; there’s just an elegiac wrapping. Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) is at the height of her creative powers in postwar Paris, and the world is beating a path to her upscale dress shop. She feels sorry for Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelson), whose vanguard composition “Rite of Spring” was met with such vituperative outrage by the Parisian bluebloods prior to the war’s outbreak that the illustrious composer is now reduced to poverty, and worse, obscurity.
Coco feels sorry for him, and takes him and his entire family into her own country estate, where Igor soon emerges from his funk and begins seriously composing some indelibly “modern” music, and there’s something about all the creative juices flowing in that place that Coco and Igor are attracted to each other like moths to flame. Of course, their fiery romance cannot help but sizzle out, leaving Igor feeling burned and consumed (which only added emotional depth to his compositions), and his family life in tatters, but he remains strangely stoic throughout. She hardly ever smiles, either. It’s like raw passion meets haute couture and creates a blazing comet that soon comes crashing down to earth.
Powerful score, though. Great wardrobes. Ardor alternating with languor, interspersed with classical etudes that sometimes sound like Scott Joplin is trying to come out and play for a while. But we can’t really root for anybody here, and we certainly aren’t amused, and there are neither behavioral mores, nor morals to the story. And we find ourselves wishing for a wisecracking Mr. Potato Head, just to lighten things up.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.