TAS Reviews: Toy Story 4

TAS Reviews: Toy Story 4

I heard a lot of people complain that Toy Story 4 is unnecessary sequel. I've always found such criticisms quite ridiculous. No movie is 'necessary', and I seem to remember a lot of people complaining about the existence of Blade Runner 2049, only to hail the movie as a masterpiece. However, even I was curious how Pixar would be able to justify a 4th installment in the franchise. Not only because Toy Story 3 wrapped up the series so well, but because the recent Incredibles 2 personally felt inconsequential, and forgettable to me, and I feared Toy Story 4 would be the same. Having now seen TS4, I can finally share my thoughts on the long awaited-sequel: a 4th installment in a franchise that I, like most moviegoers, grew up loving. Is this movie the inconsequential, tacked-on sequel we feared, or a worthy expansion of a beloved franchise?

It might surprise you to hear me say Toy Story 4 is neither. Overall, the movie is fine, which is the last thing I expected to say about it. It does not do what BR2049 did, in surpassing expectations and becoming an absolute masterpiece, but it no way detracts from the legacy of the Toy Story franchise. As a matter of fact, this movie does a much better job justifying it's existence narratively than Incredibles 2 did. That movie felt like a side-quest to me: almost as if Pixar created downloadable content for the 1st Incredibles movie.

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This movie, on the other hand, compliments the original 3 movies in a delightful way, providing a satisfying conclusion to the character of Woody. If you're of the opinion that the last Toy Story movie provided the perfect ending of the franchise, and is better left untouched, this movie might just convince you otherwise.

No one can argue this movie doesn't have an emotional core, and it results in a genuinely impactful and poignant ending. Another aspect deserving of praise is the absolutely stunning animation. If 2D animation is more your thing, this might not do much for you, but the visuals in this movie are absolutely stunning, and no still from the movie can do justice to how beautiful and occasionally borderline photorealistic this movie looks in motion. The animators at Pixar also do a great job ensuring the movie has a wide colour-palette and that all the colours contrast and stand out each other beautifully.

But my favourite thing about Toy Story 4, above all else, is how great the characters are: both returning characters and new ones. Tom Hanks is predictably great, and more than ever, Woody is truly the emotional core of the film, receiving the most lines, the biggest role and the most character exploration. Tim Allen receives a couple of highlight moments as Buzz Lightyear, and arguably delivers the most emotionally impactful lines of the movie. It's been a while since I've seen the original movies, and I can barely remember anything about Bo Peep, but I thought her character was an absolute delight. The relationship between Bo Peep and Woody is integral to the narrative, and Tom Hanks and Annie Potts have the chemistry as voice actors to make you invested in the relationship.

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However, my favourite characters might've been all the new characters that Pixar created. My favourite being Duke Caboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves. Keanu is an incredibly limited actor, but I'm impressed by how well the filmmakers were able to give him a role that perfectly utilises the likability and charisma of Keanu Reeves: the person, not the actor. Key and Peele are fantastic as Ducky and Bunny, delivering one of, if not, the most memorable comedic moments in the movie.

Although I enjoyed all of the above about Toy Story 4, I feel it had a lot that prevented it from being a genuinely good movie, and a lot of these things have to do with personal preference. Though there were some good comedic moments - more often than not, I found myself forcing a laugh. G-rated comedy is hit-or-miss for me, but to use a recent, relevant example, Zootopia was a genuinely funny movie, and the sloth scene for example was laugh-out-loud hilarious, and had me - someone who generally doesn't care for such tame humour - in stitches. I can't remember a single scene in Toy Story 4 that came even close.

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I spoke earlier about how this movie is truly Woody's movie. I don't mind an ensemble movie using a particular character as it's emotional core over the others, but I feel they went too far in the other direction, and we ended up with an imbalance in terms of screentime and character moments, with a lot of the original characters being severely underused.

Though Toy Story 4 feels a lot more impactful than Incredibles 2 narratively, I personally found the story of the movie quite lacking overall, felt inconsequential, with too narrow of a scope: focusing solely on Woody, with the others feeling like background noise. Quite honestly, it made me gain a further appreciation for how the Russo Brothers manage to juggle such a sprawling cast of characters, because Toy Story 4 does not do half as good a job. It results in a narrative that doesn't feel like it matters much for any character that isn't called Woody. The others basically feel like accessories, and it quite undermined by emotional attachment to the story as a whole.

Conclusion

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For a movie that was written off as a mere cashgrab by many from the moment it was announced, Toy Story 4 does a solid enough job justifying it's existence, delivering a satisfying conclusion to the storyline of Woody, capping this franchise off with a genuinely impactful ending. However, the journey to get there is quite underwhelming: with few laughs, a poor job in terms of balancing different characters, and a story that fails to land until the third-act. Any fan of the franchise likely doesn't need me to recommend this movie to them, but as a whole, I felt that Toy Story 4 rarely transcended it's functionality. It's content with being just fine, and rarely becoming something great.

Score: 6/10.

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