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Toy Story 4 – Movie Review

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Toy Story 4 – Movie Review

Rating: A+ (Amazing)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

The filmmakers at Pixar Animation Studios had delivered three extraordinary movies with the Toy Story series. The idea of making more always had that risk of going back to the well too many times. How many more stories could be told, revolving around the continuing adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear? Thankfully, director Josh Cooley (following in the footsteps of John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich) has crafted a beautiful continuation that keeps the high quality Toy Story is known for. The new scenarios and ideas devised for Toy Story 4 manage to evolve the characters, especially Woody, in ways that feel genuine and earned.

The films have long been about Woody’s journey. The first film showed him overcoming his jealousy and feeling of command over the toys. Toy Story 2 had Woody contemplating whether preservation was more important than being played with, while the third outing had him realising there was more to the world beyond Andy’s loyalty. Toy Story 4 has Woody undergoing new realizations and dealing with personal dilemmas with the filmmakers throwing quite a few curveballs into the plot. This is partly shown through his attempting to convince a now sentient spork that he is a toy meant to be loved by a child. There is humour gained through this, thanks to Forky’s continual denials and Tony Hale’s vocal performance.

However, we also understand his feelings about his initial purpose being taken away from him. That allows Toy Story 4 to explore the concept of what one’s ultimate purpose is. That thought nags at Woody throughout the movie and it’s beautifully explored. The other toys, like Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the Cowgirl, have significant screentime, too. However, the film primarily belongs to Woody and his reuniting with former flame Bo Peep. Toy Story 4 nicely portrays how their long separation has changed them both and while some may be slightly put off by her new design, she still feels like the same porcelain figure who was “a few blocks away” in the first movie.

While it’s nice to see the familiar faces again, Toy Story 4 gives plenty of attention to the new characters and they are fantastic. The scene-stealers are a pair of plushies, voiced with incredible energy by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. Some of the biggest laughs come out of their overactive imagination and their encounters with Buzz. A Canadian daredevil toy, voiced by Keanu Reeves, is also a humourous addition to the Toy Story ensemble. It’s remarkable how the Pixar team keeps coming up with a variety of new toys to introduce into the movies. The central villain Gabby also manages to stand apart from Stinky Pete and Lotso Bear in how she decides to antagonize Woody and the other toys. The story directions taken with Gabby work tremendously in developing the character and elevating the movie even higher.

Pixar films are known for their careful attention to detail in the storytelling and Toy Story 4 continues that tradition. Each plot point makes sense in the larger context of the story and each set-piece is wonderfully put together. Most of the movie takes place at a carnival and antique store and Josh Cooley knows how to use the locations to maximum effect. Every decision made by Woody also comes out of a genuine place, going right back to the opening scene. Andy may not be there anymore, but Bonnie proves just as important to Woody’s development and Bonnie has her own important story arc, too. As expected, the animation is of the highest quality. Forky alone is an impressive feat of character animation and hardcore Pixar fans will especially get a kick out of the large amount of Easter Eggs in the antique shop.

Toy Story has certainly proven itself as one of the top film franchises and one could even make the argument it’s the best one. To see a series keep this incredible high benchmark of quality through four films, plus television specials and shorts, is remarkable. Watching Toy Story 4 reiterates how these movies are about Woody’s emotional journey as every step he takes is to make not only a child happy, but make sure he himself is satisfied. The movies explore not just the importance of toys in children’s lives, but also the ways we change and evolve in our daily decision making. Toy Story began as an experiment to see if an audience could watch an entire feature film animated on computers. They have now become a necessary part of growing up and a touchstone series that can be passed down from generation to generation.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison