"Toy Story 4" Review
Toy Story 4 is another feature-length Toy Story film by superstar director Josh Cooley, known for his prized work on Up and Inside Out. Obviously, it is the fourth in this franchise, and somehow it still retains the charm, humor and merriment of the first three installments.
First of all, the film is stunning to look at, and I have to applaud Pixar for its continually evolving animation. Pixar is truly the gold standard for digital production, and there is a reason why it racks up such hefty sums at the box office. Every set piece is exquisitely designed, item for item, frame for frame. I know there had to be a painstaking process sketching out the toys and other moving figures, because they are crafted with such poise and precision. It is a gorgeous movie, if nothing else.
Next, do not expect this to be a feast of nostalgia reminiscing on the days of yore when the toys were in the custody of Andy. Most of the core group from the original gets little screen time here, and the movie is much more interested in introducing and fleshing out its new characters. I had no problem with that. If I needed a nostalgia trip, I will go back and watch the other movies. Toy Story 4 is presenting a new line of toys for a new generation of children, and it doesn’t get bogged down in fan service for those that have stayed with the saga. It evokes memories of previous movies and makes you remember why you fell in love with Woody, Buzz and the gang, but it also lays the tracks for expansion of the universe and other cool new characters.
All of the new characters had something different and exciting to bring to the table, and each one integrated into the fold rather effortlessly. There is a bunny/duck combo voiced by the ever-fashionable sketch-show extraordinaires Key and Peele, and their comedic stylings serve the whimsical nature of these two characters very well. Another toothsome treat for all you film fans is the famous Keanu Reeves makes an appearance as Duke Caboom, "Canada's Greatest Stuntman," and it is everything you hope it will be. I liked that Bo Peep goes from zero to hero in this latest installment, and she is rewritten as a strong, capable, independent character.
The filmmakers use one particular new toy named Forky as a proxy to address some existential feelings of self-worth; although, there are mixed results that come with it. Forky skirts the edge of becoming gimmicky, and although I appreciate the intent behind the character, I don’t know that his arc in the end was handled with great care or sensitivity. In fact, I feel the message either got lost in the shuffle somewhere, or it was completely abandoned as the movie went along. I think the casting for him, Tony Hale, was a sublime choice, because Hale knows how to imbue a sense of unease and anguish into a character. For a reference point, see Buster Bluth on Arrested Development.
Tonally and thematically, the opening and closing chapters are sort of humdrum, and the meat of the movie is situated at the center. I found almost all of the bits played for laughs to be absolutely delightful. However, the movie takes a while to pick up momentum, and the ending didn’t bear any profound emotional impact for me like Toy Story 3 did. Some of that comes with the lack of a 3-film buildup with the same cast of characters at the helm, and Toy Story 3 has such a beautiful, bow-on-top, pitch-perfect ending. It is difficult to say if the toys will return to the big screen again, but I can say that Disney likes to milk their cash cows for all they are worth.
I would encourage any pensive individual to suspend his reflective thoughts on the impracticality and universe-breaking content that freckles the film. There is quite a lot of it, particularly during a scene with a car speeding down a highway, in which there are things that the toys do that raises some eyebrows to say the least. I also don't think I like the strange, affectionate obsession that the toys have for their so-called kids (aka masters/owners). It smacks of Stockholm Syndrome, and the more I think about it, the more problematic it gets. But, I digress.
After the film ended, I did not feel as though there was enough substance to justify its own existence, but it is worth bringing the family to for some side-splitting laughs and above-average entertainment.
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© 2019 Logan Daniel Williamson