Let’s get right to it. Is Toy Story 4 the best film in the franchise? Nope. Is it the worst? Well, kind of, but that’s because the other movies in the series were just so good. But being the worst one of the franchise doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad movie. In fact, it is actually a really good movie, with great voice work, top notch animation, and a story with amazing pacing. But don’t think I’m not going to rant about some things. That ending though! I’ll get to that in a bit.
I will say one thing that bothers me about this movie, is that after Toy Story 3, we really did not need another Toy Story movie. I think that most fans will agree that Toy Story 3 just wrapped up everything nicely and it really brought about a satisfying emotional conclusion for those fans that have witnessed the journey of Woody, Buzz, and their friends since the very beginning. After Toy Story 3, I thought Pixar did a very clever move by focusing on Toy Story shorts. These short films were nice because they gave us all a chance to see our favorite Toy Story characters in new mini adventures that were entertaining and in no way had a dramatic affect on any of the characters.
Tom Hanks as Woody has always done an amazing job and he still does. I think Woody is the one character that really draws you into this film more than any of the other characters. And what is great about Woody is that he has always grown as a character. He went from being a jealous toy to one of the bravest, self-sacrificing characters on the big screen. And in Toy Story 4, Woody is still playing the hero, risking everything for Bonnie’s happiness. To be honest, I think Woody is too good in this movie. But after all, that’s Woody, and that is why we love him.
I was kind of worried from the trailers that this was really going to be “Bo Peep: The Movie”. But you know what? It wasn’t. And Bo Peep was very entertaining in this movie. Probably her best performance in the series. Annie Potts returns to voice Bo Peep and she sounds just like she did over 20 years ago. This movie explains what really happened to Bo Peep and why we didn’t see her in Toy Story 3. And this was probably my favorite part of the movie. Excellent opening scene. Years later, Woody eventually meets up again with Bo Peep. When last we saw her, she was a frail porcelain doll tending her sheep, but now she’s like Sarah Connor from the Terminator series. I don’t know where she learned all of those survivor skills, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a prequel where maybe she does meet up with a cybernetic killing machine from the future. There is definitely a lot of heart with Bo Peep’s and Woody’s story and it is nice to see them reunited and you wonder throughout the movie if they will finally get together after all of these years. Don’t worry, it’s a kids movie.
As far as the story goes, I think it’s cleverly written, but we have kind of seen this story before too. It feels a bit like Toy Story 2 and 3 sometimes. But still, it is a well-written and fun story. The one thing that gets me with all of these Toy Story movies is that they really stress me out at times. Just when you think their plan worked and everything is OK, boom, some minor thing throws it off track and ruins everything. Kind of like in the first one when Buzz sees Andy and his family in Pizza Planet, and all they have to do is hop in the baby’s stroller, and then Buzz wanders away at the last second. You get that a lot in this new film. And I mean a lot. One thing that I love about the story is that is wonderfully paced. It goes by so quickly and it never drags.
I would say, if you have the chance, check out the very first Toy Story before you see this movie. Mostly to see just how far computer animation has come since 1995. It is just crazy how life like and stunning some of the locations look. The carnival all lit up at night is particularly spectacular. Even Woody and Buzz have a little more pop to them. Pixar has always tried to keep the look of the characters consistent, but they seem to make slight improvements in each of film. And Bo Peep and her sheep really look good. You can just tell that they are meant to be porcelain and have a little more shine to them then the rest of the characters. And just look at the design of Sid in the first Toy Story and you compare him to what Bonnie looks like in Toy Story 4. We have come a long way!
Surprisingly, my favorite new character was Gabby Gabby, who was voiced by Christina Hendricks. It is pretty obvious from the trailers that she is a villain, but like Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Kylo Ren in Star Wars, she is a pretty complex villain. Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2 and Lots-o from Toy Story 3 were kind of similar where they appeared at first to be very warm characters, but then turned out to be some really nasty baddies. Gabby Gabby kind of follows that pattern, but there is a bit of a twist involved and I think it is handled very well.
OK. Before I get into SPOILERS, I want to talk about some things that I really did not like. Lets start with some of the new characters. I really don’t know which was worse. Forky? Or Duck and Bunny?
Forky almost bordered on the line of a Jar Jar Binks-type character. He was just annoying throughout most of the film where you just wanted to crush the thing. And the whole idea of going after Forky because he was Bonnie’s favorite toy was so not worth it. They should have just let him go to the trash and be done with him. But I know, there would be no story then. But he was so annoying! And his design was nothing to look at. He was just a spork with pipe cleaners and googly eyes.
Duck and Bunny were just painfully not funny. And although I know that Key and Peele are funny in their own right, it seems like they tried too hard to be funny in this one and I felt that none of their humor worked at all.
And you know what? I’m going to say it. Bonnie was a spoiled brat! That kid has like a million toys in her room and she flips out over some hybrid fork spoon monstrosity when it goes missing. And the stuff she does to Woody in this film and he still goes out of his way to help her? Uh-uh. She ain’t worth it. Bonnie is one fickle kid. But I guess when you look back at Andy, he was kind of a jerk at times too.
Oh, and Duke Caboom. Love me some John Wick, but Keanu Reeves really didn’t add much to the movie. He was just kind of meh.
And I have to mention Benson, the ventriloquist dummy. Someone at Pixar has a sick, deranged mind because they made this character so creepy. I mean it’s a ventriloquist dummy! Always smiling, always staring, never talking. The stuff that nightmares are made of. I think that some kids may have issues with this character because he is kind of scary, appears out of nowhere at times and when he walks, it’s kind of like his body is moving with all of its bones disjointed. They might as well have just used Chucky or that clown from Poltergeist because he is kind of right up there with those dudes.
Be warned! SPOILERS start now!
I’m sorry, but that ending really made me mad. You mean to tell me with over thirty years of Woody and Buzz being best buds that you are really going to have Woody leave the group? Are you kidding me? That is just wrong! Why couldn’t Bo Peep just go with Woody? Or why not have the whole group of toys jump out of the van and stay with Woody and Bo Peep? That kid was happy with just a fork, or probably even a cigarette lighter. She could care less if any of her other toys were gone. I’d get her a Dixie-cup for Christmas if I was her parents. She flipped out over a plastic spork! You lose that one, just make another one in 4 seconds. Save your toys a bunch of grief, kid. Maybe that was why Woody found it so easy to leave at the end. She didn’t appreciate him. Gave his star to Jessie and threw him in the closet and he still felt bad for her. He had life threatening surgery to remove his voice box for that ungrateful kid! The perfect ending for me would be after five minutes of Bonnie playing with Forky, she finally gets bored and goes to play with her hundred of other toys in the back of the van and they are all gone. Welcome to the real world, kid. Go play with some trash bags. Half joking here, but sometimes you should appreciate what you have and not focus on what you don’t have. But seriously, that ending where Woody left the gang kind of ruined it for me. Just don’t like it.
End of SPOILERS.
There are some Easter Eggs hidden throughout the film from previous Pixar films. Like, I saw a painting of explorer Charles Muntz from Up! playing poker with his dogs. There was also the Tin Toy from one of Pixar’s first shorts way back from 1988. And I am sure you will all do a better job than I did with catching other Easter Eggs that I missed.
And what’s up with no short before the film? Disney and Pixar are getting lazy. Don’t they know that people enjoy that stuff? Think the last one they did was that weird one about those cannibalistic dumpling eaters before Incredibles 2. More shorts! Less sporks! Even if they are creepy!
I really felt that they should have just let things be and ended the series with Toy Story 3. But with that being said, this movie is still very enjoyable and should capture your interest throughout. It’s probably one of the best movies that you will see this year, but that is not really saying much. Pixar always does an excellent job playing with our heart strings, and this movie is no exception. Toy Story 4 is one movie that the whole family can enjoy, but beware of ventriloquist dummies! It was really nice to see Woody, Buzz and the gang back and looking better than ever. Although I have to say, a lot of the original characters got short-changed for some very mediocre and very forgettable characters. Hopefully this is the end for the series, but if they didn’t end it after they had a perfect ending, why would they do it now?