Greetings my Movie Geeks!
Beware Minor Spoilers!
In 1995 a movie was released that was technically ground-breaking, funny, and emotional. It was the first full-length feature film to be entirely computer-generated. Toy Story told the story of the toys owned by a child named Andy. Andy’s favourite toy is Sheriff Woody voiced by Tom Hanks. His world comes crashing down when Andy receives a new toy for his birthday. The all singing and dancing Buzz Lightyear a space toy that has flashing lights and wings, voiced by Tim Allen. 24 years later and we have the release of Toy Story 4.
Toy Story has been part of my life from when I was 10. It was ground-breaking, it was entertaining. It arguably changed film and created a sub-genre that makes up a lot of the movie industries’ output. Not only did it do this, but it began a series of movies that were primarily aimed at kids but didn’t sugar-coat everything. These movies wouldn’t just throw shiny colours at the screen, they would tell competent stories, and actually, challenge the young audience. They trusted the children in the audience could handle the subject, take Up’s opening sequence or Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2. Not only did they affect and help children emote, but they also affected adults too.
But, other than Coco in 2017 and The Good Dinosaur in 2015, the majority of movies have been sequels. I’m not averse to sequels, some of my favourite films are sequels, but it gets to a point where sequels need to stop. Unfortunately, that’s what I feel towards Toy Story 4.
Toy Story 3
Nine years ago in 2010, Toy Story 3 was released and suffice it to say it was a perfect and emotional end to the story of the toys we all grew up with. It was set almost in real time, showing how Andy had grown up and the toys were not played with anymore. It showed how they desperately want to be used and want to help Andy. But it also opens up the different life they could have if they were to live in a pre-school being played with all the time.
Having a villain that had an emotional back story, but at the same time the villain, Lotso, turns out to be bad even after being helped by Woody. It didn’t soften any lessons that children could benefit from. There was one brutal scene that saw the toys embrace being lost and dying. But at the last moment, they were saved. They found their way back to Andy, who then decides to give the toys away.
It had a great ending; it gave the toys a happy ending with a new kid, and we could assume all lived happily ever after. However, with $1.067 billion dollar Box Office, it was inevitable that there was still a market for Toy Story. That’s how we’ve got here.
Toy Story 4
We begin with a flashback showing how negligent Andy became with his toys, but also how Bo Peep was lost. In Toy Story 3 it was a line said by Woody stating that a lot of the toys had either been sold on or given away. It makes sense as Bo Peep was a porcelain night light of Andy’s younger sister. Then we get a quick montage of how the toys get to Bonnie and their life with her. It’s not all smooth sailing for the toys and it becomes clear that certain toys aren’t played with like they used to be.
Without spoiling anything, the trailers show that Bonnie creates Forky, a character made from a spork. He wants nothing more than to escape his life of being a toy because he is made from materials that should be in the bin. Woody goes out of his way to make sure Forky remains with Bonnie. Whilst hunting for Forky, Woody reunites with Bo Peep. Add a travelling carnival and antique store and the story is there.
Basically, this story is about Woody saving another toy to fulfil the needs of his kid. A story that has been done before, but this time Woody has a hard choice to make.
A Story Too Far
The story is entertaining and does fit in with the Toy Story franchise. It encompasses the way children act with their toys. It raises the question of what defines a toy, and how are these seemingly inanimate objects alive. There are reunions and comical moments. There are nods to the previous films and even another Shining reference.
It has humour throughout and those emotional moments that you have come to expect from a Toy Story and Pixar movie. But, there’s also a sense that this movie shouldn’t be. Like this is one story too far. Did we need this film?
No. This movie wasn’t needed. It feels like a quick cash grab, to release between new films. It’s a given that this film will be a big hit. It will most likely hit $1 billion because it’s Toy Story. But from a movie-goers point of view (and this is from a Pixar fan) It doesn’t add anything new to the wider Toy Story! All it really does is close off Woody’s story, or I suppose opens it up.
They do add some new characters such as Gabby Gabby a 50’s pull-string doll, a Giggle McDimple a Polly Pocket type toy. There are some Ventriloquist dummy’s that are frightening, and there the Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele carnival plush toys Ducky and Bunny. These are by far the standout additions, and sadly these additions mean reduced screen time for the older Toy Story toys.
One thing that stood out to me was the voice acting. It felt audibly older, which took away from the movie. Even Tom Hanks didn’t sound fresh or interested in the film. Some of the cast was underused but they went out of their way to use recordings of Don Rickles as Mr Potato Head as he died prior to recording. There is also a nice tribute at the end of the credits.
This has been seen as an end for the Toy Story franchise, with Producer Mark Nielsen stating Pixar would be concentrating on new and original films. But even so, the way the film ends lends itself to splitting off into several new sequels and so don’t count on this being the last. There is a universe to build here and there are a lot of toys they could focus on. But, as with Toy Story 3, the story of these particular toys is over.
Sadly for me (a 34-year-old), this film wasn’t needed and was just a placeholder for future Pixar products. My kids loved it though! It felt old, and tired as though it’s time for these toys to be retired. Without the emotional final beats seen in Toy Story 3, this film is a pointless addition to an already complete series of films. Only one other franchise comes to mind, and due to the same reasons (plus Shia LeBeouf) I refuse to acknowledge Indiana Jones 4! (Well, except for my annual re-watch to see if it gets better!)
They say a good story has a defined Beginning, Middle and End, and Toy Story 4 goes past the end adding a further irrelevant ending that can’t best Toy Story 3.
2 / 5
Dir: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, & Joan Cusack