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Hammerle on... “Toy Story 4,” “Yesterday”

July 10, 2019

bob hammerle movie reviews“Toy Story 4”

“Toy Story 4” is a brilliant film filled with joy, hope, disappointment and heartbreak. Pixar has once again hit a cinematic home run with a film that will have a magical impact on adults and children alike.

Tom Hanks is back providing the voice and character of Woody, a cowboy doll looking to find a place in the world. The movie centers on a 5-year-old girl named Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) who inherited Woody and his comrades when his beloved Andy left for college years earlier, as seen in “Toy Story 3.”

hammerle-rating-toy-story.jpgWhen Bonnie became emotionally despondent when forced to leave home and attend kindergarten, Woody hid out in her little backpack to accompany her and provide assistance. Fortunately, Bonnie grows from her sadness when she creates a goofy-looking doll out of a utensil that she calls Forky (Tony Hale). Though Forky accompanies Woody back to the family home, it takes time to teach him how to overcome his sole desire to jump into a trash can and learn the importance of sleeping in the bed with Bonnie.

A family road trip follows, during which Forky jumps from the vehicle and gets lost in a small town with an amusement park. An adventure begins that will leave you repeatedly fighting back tears. Woody and his old pal Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) depart to try and find and return Forky to Bonnie, and in the process, all of these little toys are forced to confront the meaning of life.

This little gem of a film is filled with some great moments, none more so than when Woody discovers Bo Peep (Annie Potts), his old love. With her help, a rescue team is formed that includes Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), two satirical stuffed animals confined as prizes inside a shooting gallery.

Woody also becomes involved in a fight for his survival with Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her band of devious allies who are looking to remove Woody’s voice box to replace hers that has become defective. This leads to Gabby Gabby’s coming to the aid of a lost child that is one of the most powerful moments in any film you will see this year.

However, it is the theme of this movie that will resonate with you long after leaving the theater. While Woody remains devoted to Bonnie and his old friends who wait for his return in an RV, he has to decide if he can once again say goodbye to Bo Peep. This movie proceeds to define an experience that we all encounter throughout life, namely having the strength to say goodbye to your family and comrades and avoid wallowing in misery.

As I watched Woody trying to decide whether to embrace an adventure with Bo Peep as a companion, I was reminded of similar moments that confront all of us. When you walk away from the funeral of your parents, do you succumb to despair or find the strength to use their teachings to find meaning in life? When you watch a beloved pet being quietly taken out of her agony at a vet’s office, can’t you see in that little dog’s eyes a loving thank-you for the years of adorable pleasure she had in your company?

There is a Bo Peep waiting in everyone’s life. The adventure and reward is having the courage to find her.

“Yesterday”

I saw “Yesterday” yesterday, and I would gladly see it again. I loved it, as did an old friend of mine I bumped into in the theater, where we both stood transfixed as we emotionally hugged each other as we left the theater.

Jack Malik, played unforgettably by Himesh Patel, is a struggling songwriter/singer in a southern English coastal town. He is sustained by the support of his dedicated manager Ellie, played by Lily James in an endearing performance. As Jack supports himself with a part-time job, a global blackout occurs that results in him being hit by a bus and nearly losing his life.

hammerle-rating-yesterday.jpgAs he wrestles with his loss of several teeth, a pivotal scene occurs. Jack sits with Ellie and friends outdoors at a beach cafe, where he proceeds to sing a song at their request. That song is “Yesterday.” Overwhelmed by its lyrical power, he is asked when he wrote it. As Jack responds “I didn’t, it was Paul McCartney and The Beatles,” the movie’s plot is hit when Ellie responds, “Who are The Beatles?”

And there you have the magic of the film that will leave you wishing you were sitting with a lover in the theater where you could hold hands. With the world having no knowledge that The Beatles ever existed, Jack’s career takes off like a bolt of lightening as he performs many of their songs. Patel has a great voice, and his performance finds a way to reinvent the Beatles magic of the 1960s.

You should also note that the film is at its heart an emotional love story. As Jack wrestles with his guilt after leaving for LA under the diabolical guidance of Debra, his new agent, Ellie is forced to stay in England to continue teaching grade school. In the process, they slowly discover that they have both been unknown lovers and yet distant strangers through the years.

I must note that Kate McKinnon is at her devilish best as Debra. She is hatefully alluring and sees nothing but dollar signs as she contemplates Jack’s future.

While there are other performances that contribute to this film’s dynamic impact, Lily James is an actress with few peers. While I have outlined this in other reviews, who else has a better resume than James’ performances as the star in “Cinderella” (2015), a young Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (2018) and her classic contribution to “Baby Driver” (2017), where she uttered the classic line: “They call you baby?”

As one who has embraced films since I was a kid, I am thankful that Hollywood has rediscovered how to bring music back as a major theme in some very good movies. Think of “The Greatest Showman” (2017), last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and both “Rocketman” and “Echo in the Canyon” this year.

One of the most powerful impacts of Danny Boyle’s film is that it defines the human experience. As you watch a film where The Beatles, Coca-Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter are unknown entities, you are reminded of what will soon happen to all of us when we leave this earth. Other than with close relatives and friends, memories of our existence will soon evaporate into the distant sky.

This film tells all of us to embrace a lover and remember the joys of yesterday and the hope of tomorrow.•

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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