REVIEW: Toy Story 4

Are y’all ready for a hot take?

Because I already know Imma get flack for this one.

Compared to the other Toy Story films, Toy Story 4 feels like a bad holiday special. I do not understand why everyone is on the love train for this movie.

Now, now, before you crazy Disney folks come knocking down my door with Mickey branded pitchforks, let me assure you, I don’t HATE it.

But it is COMPARATIVELY not good.

Like, do you remember the first 3 Toy Story movies? Because those flicks are masterpieces in every respect. They pushed the visual game, they told interesting stories, and the voice acting was ICONIC.

Those 3 films are the reason we even know who Pixar is.

But all I ever see online is “OMG, TOY STORY 4 IS THE BEST TOY STORY EVER?!?!” and no disrespect…but nah fam. I love you but nah. The first 3 are way better. You’re allowed to like it or love it or whatever. Far from me to begrudge someone liking a thing…but personally…just…nah.

Spoilers for all 4 movies ahead.

Issue 1: The characters are all bizzaro versions of themselves

The writers turn Buzz into this naive husk of a space ranger. All that resourcefulness and maturity we saw starting to develop throughout Toy Story 3…gone. The vibrant personality we saw in the first two movies? What personality? He doesn’t even affect the main plot of this movie. Actually, the Buzz of Toy Story 4 doesn’t even get to make his own decisions!

It is baffling to me how Pixar took this character that was INTEGRAL to the first 3 films, completely ignored him, and then got a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. How do fans not care about this?

Then you have bizarro Woody: a narcissistic dirtbag who refuses to follow other people. A characterization that only makes sense in this movie because if you even start to think about the others in the franchise inconsistencies abound!

Like, remember how the central conceit of the original film was Woody pushing past his headstrong nature to work with Buzz, eventually realizing that they had a lot in common? What happened to that? We just gonna forget that there were 2 other movies where Woody constantly defers to his friends and family when making tactical plans or even minor decisions? Oh, we are? Okay.

The rest of our main crew (Jessie, Ham, Rex, the aliens) were pretty much a no show for this feature. Instead we interact with a brand new cast that cuts it with the character actor crap and goes all in on big names that people will recognize on a poster. The ol Dreamworks approach. Go figure. It works fine I guess but its a real shame we didn’t interact with anyone familiar before shipping them off for good.

Issue 2: The pacing is ALL over the freaking place

We get nothing but exposition for the first 2 acts. What’s the deal with the new owner? What’s the deal with Forky? Have you met the villain yet? What’s the deal with Bo? Did you know Key and Peele are in this one? So is Keanu Reeves! Yadda, yadda, yadda.

It’s all presented with some decent comedy I guess, but by the time characters are actually making meaningful choices, the movie is almost over and we’re whizzing past a tearful goodbye.

Issue 3: The ending

Toy Story 4 has one of the least satisfying resolutions I have ever seen from Pixar, and I saw Cars 2.

That being said, it’s not lazy. Thematically the finale is a wonder. It speaks to the importance of separating self-worth from our usefulness to other people, the dynamic of loyalty in contrast to being happy, how difficult changes can be processed in healthy ways, ooooo dats what I like. That’s my jam.

But even in that ball of complexity, the real crux of the climax boils down to Bo’s twilight romance convincing Woody to leave his friends.

Which, YAWN! I did not care for that AT ALL.

Bo has a cool personality, an awesome gang, and a fun skunk car. She reminds me a lot of Indiana Jones now which I am 10,000% into. I loved how she expanded the world and I would have been really excited to see her in a standalone spin off feature. But Bo is completely underutilized when it comes to defining her relationship with Woody and that’s pretty much what Toy Story 4 hangs its emotional hat on.

We get one scene in the opening to remind us that she’s important, 40 minutes where she’s dragging Woody around with a stick while rightfully telling him to shut up, and maybe 10 minutes of vague banter about the good ol days. That’s it. That’s their budding love story.

I reiterate: YAWN!

This dynamic in uninspired, too vague to mean much, and simply does not have the weight it needs to sever the 20sih years of unlikely friendship we have seen expertly developed over the past 3 films. Some of the other ideas like Woody going from favorite toy to forgotten give us a bit more context for this climax, but really, we’re supposed to see this guy give it all up for a better life with Bo.

I did not find that believable, interesting, or satisfying in any way. Thumbs down.

Are there positives?

Yes. Of course there are. I’ve been mentioning them all over the place!

This movie looks gorgeous, deals with complex ideas, and is often very funny.

It’s better than average.

But for me, Toy Story 4 comes across a poorly structured blemish on what would otherwise be a near perfect franchise. It marks the last nail in the coffin as Pixar transitions away from remarkable 5/5 storytelling and into half-baked sequel city.

3/5

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