MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Toy Story 4” is voiced by Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, Forrest Gump), Tim Allen (Last Man Standing [TV series], Wild Hogs), Annie Potts (Ghostbusters , Pretty in Pink), Tony Hale (Veep [TV series], Arrested Development [TV series]), Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland, Keanu), Jordan Peele (Wanderlust, Get Out), Christina Hendricks (Ginger & Rosa, The Neon Demon), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ally Maki (Wrecked [TV series], Super Novas), Joan Cusack (Working Girl, Grosse Pointe Bank), Madeleine McGraw (American Sniper, Outcast [TV series]), Bonnie Hunt (Jerry Maguire, Cars), Kristen Schaal (Bobs Burgers [TV series], Gravity Falls [TV series]), John Ratzenberger (Cheers [TV series], Finding Nemo), Blake Clark (50 First Dates, The Waterboy), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, The Incredibles), Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm [TV series], Daddy Day Care), Estelle Harris (Seinfeld [TV series], Brother Bear), June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt), Lori Alan (Spongebob Squarepants [TV series], The Grinch ), Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad, Hostile), and Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator). It is directed by Josh Cooley (George and A.J. [Short], Riley’s First Date? [Short]), while the screenplay was written by Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) and Stephany Folsom (This is Jane, Star Wars Resistance [TV series]). Woody (Hanks), Buzz (Allen), and the gang are back in this fourth outing for the lovable toys. When Bonnie (McGraw) creates a new toy out of a spork named Forky (Hale), Woody places it upon himself to keep him safe and from throwing himself away, since the new creation lacks a purpose. However, during a roadtrip, Woody soon finds himself in the same situation as he questions his direction in life.
I think it goes without saying that most of us (if not all) feared the worst when it came to “Toy Story 4.” The franchise seemed complete once the third installment came to theaters in 2010. It was a monumental, fun, and tear-jerking affair that rocked my childhood to pieces. I didn’t want Andy to go. I wished the toys could’ve remained with their original owner. It only took several viewings and a few years for me to accept the finale we were given, and to be honest it was a pretty darned good one. When I heard there were talks of a fourth adventure, I couldn’t help but shake my head. Where could they possibly go? John Lasseter claimed we were in for a romantic comedy between Woody and Bo Peep (Potts). Okay, now you’ve got my attention. Rather than it be a continuation of the series, it is more so an extension. Think of the Pixar shorts, but feature-length. I was fine with that, even though I was still skeptical of what would be the final release. I saw no trailers, no clips. Only the first teaser and a promotional. I wanted to go into this as clean and unsuspecting as possible. The result? Well… I’m baffled. This is the first time where I have written a review twice for a film, and not by accident. Last night, almost directly after my family and I left the theater, I sat down and penned an analysis. I was overflowed with emotions and thoughts on this picture because, well, it was nothing like I thought it’d be. After looking over what I wrote the next morning, I immediately found that it was as convoluted as my state of being when I wrote it. The emotion was there, as was my score, but the meaning was missing. So, I want to elaborate. “Toy Story 4” is the most different of the franchise. This is the first time where the story isn’t directly tied into Andy, as well as the first time where the focus is on one character: Woody. The story is a piece of inner conflict, one where Woody struggles to find his purpose. It’s the deepest, most depressing theme Pixar has presented, and I was utterly depressed having watched it. The cowboy was lost and broken, something we’ve seen in the physical during “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” but never mentally. Walking out of the theater, I couldn’t help but feel bereaved. I wanted to clear my mind of this film and make-believe that there are only three movies. Why? Because it isn’t the way I wanted things to “end.” It’s a selfish desire, but plausible when given what’s laid before me. The story of “Toy Story 4” doesn’t settle on one conflict but a few. It’s all a journey of discovery for Woody, and this film takes him a few different places with a few different scenarios. It doesn’t feel concrete because we’re mainly watching the cowboy meet and talk to new toys. All of the new characters in this were phenomenal. Keanu Reeves as Duke Kaboom was stupendous, and Key and Peele were downright hilarious as Ducky and Bunny. I laughed my butt off in this feature, more so than the others, and I think that’s because it’s more adult. I have a five-year-old sister who has been rewatching all of the “Toy Story” flicks over and over again. She loves Jessie (Cusack) and screams at the TV (or in this case, theater screen) every time she sees her. It’s like she’s watching it for the first time everytime. However in this movie, she was quiet and a bit antsy. That’s because there wasn’t much show, but rather tell. This conflict Woody face takes a lot of unpacking, all of which is crammed in a short time frame with a lot of conversations. Because of this, the structure feels a bit empty; less fun even. And that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy watching this. It was entertaining, but on a completely different plane than the other Pixar flicks. To be completely honest, I don’t think it was a tight and polished structure. The flow was kind of all over the place, hinging on the fact that Woody needs to learn a lesson whether it be from talking to Bo or talking to other toys. It was sad because it felt like I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to see Woody go through this trial because it didn’t seem necessary. When pondering on this film, I found myself growing more and more depressed. Don’t worry, I’m fine mentally, though not when it comes to the characters I grew up with in my childhood. Everything that was laid out in the “Toy Story” franchise, especially the third (and should’ve been final) flick, was kind of tossed aside. Without spoiling this film, it’s kind of like watching “Aliens” and then seeing “Alien 3,” where they completely took the conclusion of the second movie and made it meaningless when the beginning of the third. Woody’s pals are all taking a backseat in this, none of them really saying more than five lines each. And Buzz? Well, the space ranger became a complete idiot to say the least. It was as if he reverted to his initial self from the first movie and disregarded all he had learned and accomplished from the other pictures. To ice the cake, this movie even utilized certain elements from the original three and had characters approach them in completely different ways. Buzz was called to lead the toys in the second film and did it with grace. In this film, he is called to do the same thing, but fumbles around and can’t figure out what to do for himself. It was the first time I saw Pixar actually contradict their own characters, and it was weird. The fact that I couldn’t even see the rest of the toys in action really made me realize just how this franchise isn’t just about Woody and Buzz, but about the other toys. They had no opinion in any of the matters that were going on, especially the ending, where everyone just accepts what is happening with wide grins on their faces. It bothered me. If it doesn’t to you, then that’s dandy. There’s plenty to enjoy in “Toy Story 4.” The animation is marvelous and just about photo-realistic, the voice acting is amazing, and there are plenty of memorable moments, but that is what this film is mainly composed of: moments that don’t equal a whole. While I wanted to see Woody and Bo reunite (and it was nice seeing them interact), it came with a consequence that I don’t think was necessary. It makes me wonder if anything is set in stone by this company and their stories. While I’m not a happily-ever-after-all-the-time kinda guy, I wish that “Toy Story 3” was the end of it. Taking the finale of this into account, the story leaves behind the lessons learned in the first three, as well as the relationships and hardships built to get to this point. While “Toy Story 4” is by no means a bad picture, I wish it wasn’t made. Pixar danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, and it cost them (and us) everything. What you all think about the ending is up to you, but as for this deputy, I sure wish my sheriff was given his last ride in 2010. FINAL SCORE: 81%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: