Toy Story 4 exists as two movies – and ending and a beginning. Ignoring whether this film needed to be made after the arguable perfection of Toy Story 3 (hint: no), this fourth film seems to exist to try to extend the saga of the characters we love while also trying to start something wholly new
And it kind of works?
So little time is spent with the bulk of the returning cast that I can’t honestly say that this movie really serves to continue their story. What we get of them is delightful- this movie is overall funnier then the previous 3 which walked much closer to the funny/emotional line than the more straightforward humor here.
But, the bulk of the movie follows the story of Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and her band of lost toys. Not seen since Toy Story 2, Bo has been reimagined as an almost ninja-like character that acts as a leader figure for the world of lost toys. Like Fagin without the evil. Her group joins the story to help Woody (Tom Hanks) protect Forky (Tony Hale) a new toy Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) makes from some trash. Really. The rest of the new characters in Bo’s “team” are really fun with Bunny & Ducky (Jordan Peele & Keegan-Michael Key) and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) stealing nearly all of their scenes.
The theme of the movie – what is the purpose of a toy both to the people and the toys- is where the requisite Pixar gut-punch comes in. Christina Hendricks’ Gabby Gabby is the crux of this story and I was, unsurprisingly, left in tears at the resolution with Pixar once again delivering a beautiful tale in a surprising way.
Where it doesn’t work so well is Pixar’s (possible?) attempt to spin the story into a new direction. Without spoiling anything I will say that any possible 5th film will look very different – besides being more unnecessary than this one was.
Toy Story 4 is a perfectly fine movie with a lot to like. But, narratively it feels forced. It doesn’t cheapen the emotional roller coaster of the 3rd film – it’s still nice to see these characters- but this movie didn’t need to be made as anything other than one of the many TV specials they’ve been doing lately. Is it a fun watch? Sure. Is it really great to see these characters in a new space? Yeah. But, if you really thought the series ended after the last film, I wouldn’t blame you and it’s probably fine. B-