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Let's reiterate a point, this film doesn't need to exist. You could have argued Toy Story 3 never really needed to exist either (well, insomuch as any film needs to exist) but TS3 wrapped everything up near perfectly - the film itself wasn't without its problems, but the last act is a rare triumph of franchise closure. I mean, it even visually loops back to the first moments of Toy Story 1 - it was done, and it was easy to ignore the throwaway shorts they've released since. This fourth film exists because Disney / Pixar like money, and it was engineered from that point. It's hard to ignore because of the '4' - this is being sold as a proper full chapter. So, does it make a convincing argument that we needed to revisit these toys one more time? Sort of - at the very least it tries.
The most noteworthy thing here is how weird it is. Not David Lynch weird or anything (though there's also one scene that I think would have freaked me the f**k out as a kid), just weird by Pixar and Toy Story standards. Forky is a masterful addition, and also the most bat**** of the entire series. His existential identity crisis is as intense as it is hilarious, and the film perks up as soon as he's introduced. The film often feels like dishing up the leftover good ideas that didn't quite fit into the other ones - scenes and sequences that don't necessarily coalesce perfectly, but are pretty good on their own terms. It's very probably the funniest Toy Story film, with some legitimately great and unexpected gags dotted throughout. Some of the new toys are wonderful - obvious how much fun they clearly had animating the tiny Giggle McDimples particularly. Also big credit for having a new take on a 'villain', as there was a little bit too much crossover between Stinky Pete & Lotso.
Oh, and visually it's marvellous. It's been a few years since I watched Toy Story 3, but the fidelity and technology here feels like a proper leap - and Josh Cooley takes good advantage of it with extraordinarily detailed settings and beautiful compositions, particularly a rainy prologue that feels primarily like a way to show off how far we've come technically in the past two and a half decades. You got to give the creatives credits for managing to fit in some truly beautiful moments too - the wordless reunion scene takes full advantage of one of the series' core rules in a deeply poignant, romantic and clever way.
It's the writing that gives some cause for hesitation when it comes to praising the film. From the off you can feel the scriptwriters' brains in overdrive, trying to come up with situations and context to get what they want to across. It's relentlessly contrived in a way the others weren't, and inevitability retreads the same old ground we've covered before. Ultimately, it does arrive somewhere newish, and there's definitely reflections on issues such as ageing and finding one's place in the world as the years tick by. But there's a lot of moving parts, and at worst it can feel like such a hodgepodge that it's fairly tricky to care about where it's all going. While the ending is predictably emotional - and pretty well handled - it falls well short of the overwhelming one-two punch of TS3's furnace/Bonnie's garden finale.
This is very much a Woody (and Bo Peep, who gets plenty of great material) story, to the point where it feels like many of the other characters are taking up space - Buzz included. I mean you could argue they were already struggling to come up with more directions for the likes of Jessie and Buzz in TS3, but it's doubly the case here. Most of the side characters are, well, sidelined and you'd barely miss the likes of Rex, Hamm, the Potato Heads if their few lines were cut. Much more time is given to a handful of new additions. I don't think it's necessarily a problem as such, but it gives the impression of the film being rather noisy with a lot of franchise baggage. And while it was always hard to ignore the corporate and branding elements in the series, the fact that Dinsey are selling Forky toys now is so absurd and egregious it actually kind of hurts the film itself
If there's one overarching problem, it's that everything feels kinda lightweight. That's fine, but this is a series that has constantly overachieved. This is a sillier, messier, less purposeful film than its predecessors. I'm actually glad they played with things like tone and pacing a bit, if only because a film series should constantly try something new within the inevitable constraints. Perhaps inevitably, though, it simply does not reach the remarkable heights Pixar has set for itself.
To end on a positive, though, I had a whole lot of fun watching it - and while that's a lesser experience than I've come to expect from Toy Story, it's a whole lot better than I feared when I first heard a fourth film was on-the-way. Good, not great... but thank Christ it isn't worse than that.
A heartwarming end to the series. This one really returns to the roots of the first film with Woody and Buzz being center stage and most of the ensemble list of characters exist in the background. The humor was good, and the message really hit home. I was doing great until the end. Some idiot brought onions to the theater and started cutting them right at the finale. Doggone it, sobbing like a child.
Toy Story 4 expands on the toy universe in a couple ways, one of which isn't explored enough, and that's the birth of a toy. Forky is a homemade toy, and he is brought to life, is immediately funny, and in some ways it's kind of too bad the story isn't more about him. No, this is Woody's story, a quest to feel useful again now that he isn't the kid's favorite toy. The metaphor doesn't really come into sharp focus, but that's perhaps to the film's advantage. Aging audiences might connect to their own situation going into retirement, parents with their kid moving away from home or simply becoming more and more independent. The first Toy Story was 24 years ago, so the franchise has older fans that must be catered to. I'm sure the creepy dummies that act as villains were designed for older audiences too, but surprisingly, didn't hear any children freak out in the theater (adults, however...). Focused or not, the film delivers on laughs, looks gorgeous (duh), and is sincere and heartfelt. A lot of the original cast are sidelined - even Buzz until the third act, but then, maybe Tim Allen is so toxic at this point, we should call him the Anti-Tom Hanks - but Woody's new friends, some led by Little Furiosa - I mean, Little Bo Peep - are fun enough you don't miss them. Highlights include Key and Peele as plush carnival goons, Keanu Reeves as a Canadian Evel Knievel toy, and of course, Tony Hale as Forky. Christina Hendricks makes a fine villain you can care about too, and there are a few cameos worth perking your ears for. I haven't been the most invested in this world (this is the first one I've seen in theaters), but I quite liked it, thank you. One thing though: No short to precede it?
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #93 in All-Time Worldwide Box office
This movie ranks #150 in IMDb's Top 250
This movie ranks #205 in All Time Box Office