Okay, so I saw Toy Story 4 last Friday and it was the quite the experience. It was an early afternoon showing and I walked into the theater by myself with a freshly groomed mustache and oversized sweatpants.
In other words, it’s safe to say I manipulated a few parental seating decisions. One woman actually looked at me, suggested a “popcorn trip” to her two kids, and resolved to sit in a completely different section. I don’t blame her. She probably saw my profile on Mass.gov…
For the sake of time, I’ll avoid gushing over Pixar and the Toy Story franchise right now. I plan on ranking every Toy Story movie later in the week so, for this blog, I’ll stick strictly to what matters here: the fourth installment.
When Pixar initially announced they’d be extending the franchise, it seemed like another par for the course, cash grab sequel bid. I mean, Toy Story 3 capped off arguably the greatest trilogy of all time—Godfather III stunk and I’ll never rewatch a Lord of the Rings movie—and seemingly wrapped up the collective narrative in a tight bow. Where could they possibly go from there?
Well, now that I’ve seen where they went, I’m glad I tagged along for the ride. I almost feel guilty for ever doubting this franchise and I have my reasons.
Disclaimer: As always, there are no true spoilers to follow.
Similar to previous installments, Toy Story 4 opens up with another brilliant set piece involving all of the toys collaborating in some sophisticated, Ocean’s 11-esque recon mission; the scene ends with an emotional goodbye.
It was in this moment I felt that “here we go again” Pixar moment where it’s a near guarantee your eyes will quiver once or twice within the next two hours. Over the last 25 years, Pixar’s been known to butter you up, only to beat you over the head with a burlap sack of emotional cinderblocks before the end credits roll.
This time, things were different and I think that’s EXACTLY what needed to be done.
Unlike other Toy Story films, it felt like Pixar wasn’t trying to flood the theater here. Of course, the film’s ending sparked a surge of nostalgic emotion; however, there was no Jessie abandonment or incinerator scene and I think that was part of the plan.
It’s tough to go any further without giving spoilers but the one thing I’ll say is that it’s a VERY Woody/Bo Peep heavy movie, which is understandable. Woody is essentially the tentpole mascot for the entire Pixar universe and his relationship with Bo Peep has always been the single most underdeveloped narrative in the franchise.
That said, a little more screen time for the gang we spent the last 20 years with—especially Buzz and Jessie—could’ve really hammered down what already was an incredibly satisfying ending.
Essentially, Pixar wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. They weren’t trying to provide overarching closure. They were just trying to give us an extra two hours with a cast of characters we grew up with, and that’s FINE.
Certainly it’s the least memorable installment of the series, but that’s like saying it’s the least memorable slice of pizza—it’s still fucking pizza.
All in all, it was a movie that shouldn’t have been made, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m so glad it was. It was paced incredibly well and every character introduced—Forky, the Key and Peele plush bears, and Keanu Reeve’s Duke Caboom—drilled their appearances. Not to mention, it’s the most beautiful looking Pixar movie to date.
Side Note: Bo Peep’s a ROCKET, dude. Don’t try to tell me that her and Woody’s relationship was strictly platonic. His name’s “Woody” for God’s sake…
Final Rating: 9.1