If you were like me and remembered that they announced Toy Story 4 about four years ago, that sounded like a crazy idea for Pixar to continue on this franchise after the third installment ended on a perfect high note. Most would argue that this was going to be another cash-grab from the studio. But once you sat down in the theater watching everything unfold, you’ll feel like a little kid again.
What’s the Story: Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang are having a perfect time now being the owners of Bonnie. As she enters Kindergarten, she creates a new toy out of a spork named Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) and finds a new friend to help her out. After he escapes while on a road trip, it’s up to Woody to rescue him to return him safely to Bonnie while meeting old and new friends along the way.
The Toy Story movies have always held a special place in my heart. All three of them are my favorite Pixar movies of all-time and never once been let down by any of them. Re-watching them before seeing this just took me back to the good days. And so much like everyone else, I was concerned to see if Toy Story 4 was warranted, even though it was one of my anticipated movies of the year. The only time they continued on after Toy Story 3 was through shorts and television specials on ABC. But I had a feeling this was going to be another hut because Pixar’s track record with sequels has been more hits (Incredibles 2) than misses (Cars 2). And you know what, Toy Story 4 is everything and more in ways that can exceed low expectations.
Let’s start off with talking about the animation in the film because that’s the main aspect that’s always impressive about each passing entry. Each one improves upon itself in terms of animation technique, and it’s just so beautiful. Right down to the action sequences or its moments with the characters, it never disappoints. Quite possibly the best use is seen during the opening sequence just by looking at the rain and how realistic is being presented in the background.
After seeing this, Woody might’ve just become my favorite character in an animated movie out there. What I came to love about him is that he’s the most loyal toy to ever live when he cares not only about his friends, but his owner, and in this case, it’s Bonnie to keep her safe and happy. He practically becomes sort of a father figure for Forky. His character is arc is borderline perfect. There isn’t a ton of scene between Woody and Buzz, but there’s still a sense of joy whenever they share a scene together. I also love Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) in this more than in the first two because I love how she’s now tough and is able to defend herself from trouble. The relationship between her and Woody never skipped a beat.
And I love the new characters they introduced in here, and they served the story well enough to establish themselves into this universe. Forky was the one that some might fear will be annoying throughout, but he’s generally funny and had some personally later on. The others that were great were the antagonist Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks), a pull-string doll that’s in the antique shop; Giggle McDimples (voiced by Ally Maki), a miniature police officer that’s with Bo Peep; Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves), a Canadian stuntman, and Ducky and Bunny (voiced by the scene-stealing Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), carnival prizes that Buzz runs into.
When it comes down to the humor, this was about on-par with the others, and that’s why each movie is able to contain jokes that are meant for young children and adults. Even some of the repeated jokes were able to make me laugh consistently. This is the kind of comedy that’s good enough for the Toy Story movies and nothing else.
But if these movies know how to get one thing right, is to make its audience tear up with emotions. Every Toy Story has a certain moment that will tug on the heartstrings and will know when to make you cry. In here, there were two occasions that were completely unexpected and felt like it was the right direction for the franchise if they decided to keep it going later on.
Director Josh Cooley, who co-wrote Inside Out, makes his feature directorial debut with this, and this is an impressive feat to accomplish, especially for a popular Pixar franchise. There was never a moment where I was bored, and I was engaged with what was happening with these characters and the adventure that follows. What Cooley and the writers made an effort to do in here is to show why toys are needed in a young child’s life and will always be there when they get older. But what happens when certain toys want to go on a different path that’s right for them? For me, that’s a message many of us can learn from that I interpreted it. Pixar, back at it again with all things heartwarming.
If there were any grips that I found with this is that I was surprised the other toys weren’t given enough screen time when they’re inside the RV for a lot of the trip. But that’s just a minor nitpick in what’s a fantastic fourth installment that’s enjoyable to sit through from beginning to end.
Sometimes it’s rare to see a fourth movie in a franchise be good. The few times it succeeded are Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, etc. But with this, it’s the crown jewel that can’t be defeated. In an analogy, Toy Story 4 is like a boy/girl that you weren’t interested in going out with, but you’re forced to. But when you first meet and starting engaging in conversation, you gain to be smitten by common interests and goals in life, which leads to a good time. That’s what this turned out to be.
Remember when Toy Story 3 came out, and it basically became the saving grace for what was becoming a dull summer movie season back in 2010. Well, Toy Story 4 is the savior for the summer movie season after a string of disappointing sequels weeks back. If you were skeptical about seeing this, don’t be afraid to give it a chance. Toy Story 4 proves why this franchise has always been perfect in my eyes. Just like its three predecessors, it has beautiful animation, has tons of hilarious moments, and will make you cry and will let you know that it’s okay. Easily one of my favorite movies of the summer and of the year so far.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves
Director: Josh Cooley
Writer(s): Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton
Runtime: 100 Minutes