Toys R Us
Toy Story 4 is directed by Josh Cooley and stars the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, and Joan Cusack.
Toy Story 3 was about as perfect of an ending to the once-believed-to-be trilogy of Toy Story. By all means: Pixar could have ended things right then and there for one of the most beloved animated film series in existence, and no one would question if there was still a part of the story left untold. We would all happily go on with our lives, fully content with how it all worked out: each film in the trilogy was Pixar at their very best, the first one forever being a watershed moment in animated film history.. Then came the news in November 2014: a fourth Toy Story film was being made. Needless to say, the reactions and speculation in the years leading up to the film's 2019 release were mixed. Should we be super excited that we would get one more chance to watch our favorite animated toys Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Hamm, Rex, Slinky Dog, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, etc. on the big screen, going on another wacky, hilarious adventure? Or should we be skeptical that Pixar was going to run the risk of tainting what would have been a perfect trilogy? All the big-name voice actors were returning, and infamous Pixar director John Lasseter had a hand in the story's conception, so, at the very least, there was promise that Pixar would find a way to deliver yet again.
Whether you want to consider it a surprise or to consider it no surprise at all, Toy Story 4 hit theaters to massive critical acclaim, and looks to be a pleasant success at the box office too (if not a total smash hit). I myself walked away very impressed, not just in how Pixar was able to put together something that we can easily call a worthy follow-up to the most perfect trilogy closer in Toy Story 3, but in how Pixar was able to find even more precious, memorable story-telling with these characters, when it seemed like the previous three films had exhausted every worthy theme imaginable for a premise that deals with the relationship between kids and their toys. The thing is, Toy Story 4 alters the story-telling to being not so much about how meaningful a toy can be to his or her kid, but towards a more inward look at the toys themselves, and how they view their own purpose in a world where they only come alive when their human companions aren't around.
The film takes place two years after Andy donated all his childhood toys to the young girl Bonnie. Woody and his pals are enjoying their new home alongside Bonnie's other toys. However, Bonnie starts to use Woody less and less during her play time, and she is about to start kindergarten. While the toys worry that Bonnie will be overwhelmed and won't make any friends in kindergarten, Woody sneaks into her backpack to accompany her during her orientation. At the orientation, Bonnie uses a spork from the trash along with some arts and crafts supplies to make a new toy: Forky (Tom Hale). Forky comes to life, but believes he belongs in the trash, causing headaches for Woody as he tries to keep Forky from running away during Bonnie's family road trip. While on the road one night, Forky throws himself out a window, and Woody follows him. The two wind up at an Antique Store, where they come into contact with a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). Gabby Gabby notices Woody's voice box, revealing that she wants to take it and replace her own, broken voice box. Woody manages to escape Gabby Gabby and her ventriloquist dummies, but Forky gets left behind. Not to worry: Woody reunites with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who has been living a free lifestyle ever since Andy's younger sister gave her away years ago.
The return of Bo Peep is no kind of spoiler; the only way her return could surprise you is if you went into the movie having not seen any posters or seen any of the trailers. Of course, there's also the opening flashback scene that shows us Bo Peep being given away, which should automatically tell you that she is going to resurface later on in the movie. So taking all that into account, let's just say that Toy Story 4 does not care at all to try and surprise you with Bo Peep coming back. What you may not expect at first is that Bo Peep turns out to be quite important to the narrative, and not just coming back for the sake of fan service. Her presence creates a fine line that introduces the idea of toys craving possession to their child owners versus toys that no longer have that desire to be played with, wishing to live life on the outside. It's this fine line where Toy Story 4's narrative is at its peak, which, without spoiling any specifics, Pixar executes on gracefully without a hint of cynicism.
- Disney and Pixar's animation has reached such an advanced state and has been firmly established for years as the animation paragon, that it's just utterly pointless now to continue lauding the animation of their feature films. The animation is so impressive that it has basically become a form of photorealism, backgrounds and textures looking like something that was shot in live action. No, really, what is there to say?
- All the Toy Story films have wonderful voice casts and colorful groups of characters, and I took a special liking to the particular group of characters in this film. Not a single new character in the film, whether it's Forky or Gabby Gabby, came off as annoying or useless, the screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton doing an impressive job of fleshing out enough of these new characters' personalities and motivations in a 100 minute span. Each Toy Story has been impressive in the way they've each had a memorable villain, and Gabby Gabby, although I use the word villain lightly, is no exception. Her and Forky fit right into the film's narrative concerning a toy's internal dilemma, with Gabby Gabby wanting to take Woody's voice box so that she can no longer be a "broken" toy, while Forky struggles to understand that, while he was made from pieces and parts that were thrown away in the trash, he should not think of himself as trash. The other thing that made these characters more memorable to me is the passionate voice performances by Christina Hendricks and Tom Hale. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and all the returning veterans are great as usual, but Hendricks and Hale are so invested in their respective performances, that their charm permeates across the entire frame, whenever their characters are talking. Hendricks and Hale obviously benefit the most because they are brand new voices to the franchise, but it's the kind of fresh life blood that prevents Toy Story 4 from seeming like more of the same. It's new characters that we can fully get behind, both from a voice acting and screenwriting perspective.
- I wish I could have the same high praise for other characters in the film as I do for Gabby Gabby and Forky. Poor Buzz Lightyear is reduced to supporting character, with the likes of Jessie, Hamm, the Potato Heads, Rex, and Slinky Dog all given next to nothing to do during the entire film. That's just the unfortunate reality when you gather so many different, notable characters together in the same environment: at least a few of them are going to take a backseat. I normally would be forgiving, but I couldn't help but feel irked by what the movie does with Buzz, mostly because of how Buzz was so integral to the plots of Toy Story and Toy Story 2. How could Buzz Lightyear, arguably Woody's equal in this franchise, could get knocked down to a mere supporting role? To be fair, Buzz isn't completely irrelevant, but the problem is that every meaningful thing he does in the film is not given the time nor the attention it deserves. Retrieving a lost key? Nah, we'll just have the person place the key down right next to Buzz, for the sake of a joke. He doesn't need to fly through the air and do some crazy stunt to get the key. Buzz does no kind of clashing with Woody; whatever Woody proposes, Buzz agrees to it. Just because the two are best friends doesn't mean we can't stop having any sort of conflict between them. I think something that could drive the plot like a heated disagreement between Woody and Buzz would've been very interesting to see. And while we're at it, we could have Jessie, Hamm, and the others all try to do something on their own, something to make this wacky adventure even more crazy. I'm not asking for too much, am I?
The anticipation leading up to Toy Story 4's release was one of the weirdest ones in recent memory. Were we supposed to be excited or skeptical that Pixar had the audacity to say, "Oh no, Toy Story 3 wasn't the end, despite the fact that it very could have and should have been the end." Whether you were excited or skeptical (or both), the decision turned out to be a successful one. Toy Story 4 achieves the seemingly impossible feat of being a worthy follow-up to one of the most pitch perfect trilogy endings in Toy Story 3, loaded with plenty of humor and heart that is perfectly suitable for people of all ages. Christina Hendricks and Tom Hale are superb in the way they bring the franchise's new characters to life, although several veterans like Buzz and Jessie are unfortunately shoved to the sidelines without much to say or do. Regardless, this is still great stuff by Pixar, and it's exciting to hear that now they want to focus on getting back to making more original works, because making non-stop sequels can only work for so long. As for the Toy Story franchise, Toy Story 4 surely will be the final film, at least, that's what we'll all be thinking for the foreseeable future. I highly doubt a Toy Story 5 will ever happen, but in this day and age, you can't rule out any conceivable film idea. Who knows? Maybe a Toy Story 5 will happen one day, and we'll watch it, love it, and think to ourselves, "How does Pixar keep doing it with these characters?" We've known and loved these toy characters for almost twenty five years now. They set the example for what computer animation could be way back in 1995, and for that, we'll always remember them. Instead of being upset that the franchise didn't end with Toy Story 3, Pixar fans should be grateful that these toy characters have continued to hold up, even all these years later.
Recommend? Yes.Be sure to have seen the previous three films.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: