The best movie that should have never been made.
Walking into this movie, I had low expectations. I felt Toy Story 3 was so well done, with such a heartfelt and satisfying conclusion that it couldn’t be topped… no matter how badly I wanted to be proven wrong. As soon as I sat down, I discovered there was no preceding short film that Pixar movies are so famous for; I knew I was in for a letdown.
The unfair thing about this movie is that it is actually very enjoyable, but with such large boots to fill, it is difficult not to get any snakes in them. This time around, Buzz (Tim Allen) is dumber, the nostalgia is heavier, and the humans are even more clueless about where they last left the toys.
Unlike the third film, Toy Story 4 is not a team effort by any means. The toys, except Woody (Tom Hanks) and briefly, Buzz, are restrained to an RV for the majority of the film. The rest of the gang has barely any lines, let alone any important role to play. After establishing such a family dynamic between the toys across three movies, it seems unjust to cut them out and put Woody on a solo adventure. Buzz is especially wronged; once Woody’s counterpart, he is essentially reduced to a sidekick incapable of thinking for himself.
The movie also fails to provide an iconic backdrop for the toys’ shenanigans (i.e. Pizza Planet, Al’s Toy Barn, Sunnyside Daycare). Although the movie dangles a carnival in front of us, it mainly unfolds inside an antique store, the most notoriously boring place known to both man and toy alike.
At least the setting doesn’t slow down the exquisite new cast of characters. Canada’s sweetheart, Keanu Reeves, steals the show as the overconfident daredevil toy, Duke Caboom, who provides some wholesome Canadian humour. The always funny Key & Peele do much of the comedic heavy lifting as the enraged stuffed animals, Ducky and Bunny. Their “plush rush” montage is arguably the funniest bit of the whole movie.
Finally, there is Forky, Bonnie’s unholy spork creation. His sole mission? To return to the depths of the trash from whence he came. I was excited at the prospect of Forky finally defining the boundary between toy and object. Instead of coming to a consensus on the matter, the toys dance around it with jokes and never give a satisfying answer. The movie basically asks a question it is not prepared to answer. At least the kids’ favourite toys are not sentient iPhones.
Like its predecessors, Toy Story 4 contains many tear-inducing moments (from both laughter and sadness) that remind you why you loved the franchise so much in the first place. Without spoiling too much, the ending is… emotional, to say the least. Buckle up.
All in all, Toy Story 4 has everything you’ve come to expect, and some new additions you’re bound to love. It just isn’t an entirely necessary story to tell. With imagination being such a big theme of the series, I wish they’d let me use mine to imagine the gang’s lives post-Andy. They should have stuck with “so long, partner” instead of trying to go “to infinity and beyond.”