Ewan Gleadow

Review: Toy Story 4

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Tim Allen in Toy Story 4 (2019)

Pixar – © 2019 Disney/Pixar.

It’s hard to envision saying goodbye to Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang. Toy Story 3 provided suitable closure to the trilogy I’ve watched since early childhood, and now Toy Story 4 is back to elongate the series, for no other reason (than what appears to be), financial gain. Cashing in on a the universal childhood memory that is Toy Story is one thing, but to mess it up horrifically in the process is inexcusable.

Although the story is primarily focused on Woody (Tom Hanks), Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and newcomer, Forky (Tony Hale), it would be expected that the rest of the characters should still receive more than a handful of lines. The majority of the characters are left without anything to do, resulting in limited exploration of their respective backgrounds, and at the very least, a lacking amount of comedic moments and chemistry. Buzz and Jessie are side-lined for the likes of Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves) and Ducky and Bunny (Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key). They are not the most engaging characters, and aren’t given nearly enough time to develop into the beloved cast we’ve come to love.

Kaboom was definitely the best newcomer, and this is down to the worshipped actor that is Keanu Reeves, as of late. He’s more or less a throwaway character that’s given a massive amount of background in such a short time-frame. Not that it matters, because the real focus is on Woody and Bo Peep. I’m pretty sure director Josh Cooley understood how weird a romance between two technically inanimate toys would be, and so rightfully turned it more into a reconnection after a decade of being separated. It works fairly well, but it’s completely redundant when you realise Bo Peep, in the original trilogy, wasn’t important whatsoever. She was bulked out into a prominent cast member when producers realised they could spin a sequel.

You’d struggle to name the villain of the piece, too. Toy Story 4 manages to skip over a real, threatening villain and instead reaches for the “misguided toy” approach of the previous movies. There’s no real danger or threat, and the movie puts an unnecessary emphasis on sending off these characters in a nostalgia ridden, teary-eyed feature. This fails to deliver, because if you spend so long and work so hard on trying to hook in an older audience, you forget the one thing that Toy Story is known for, its natural charm.

It’s not without merit though. It’s par for the course that the animation is as slick as ever, Pixar never fail to amaze in that department. Seeing Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang animated so crisply reminds us that technology has come a long way since the original movie. But visuals are only as good as the story, and the story to Toy Story 4 is abysmal. In my opinion, it carries no real weight, no engaging disruption, no life message for the younger audiences and no call-backs for the returning veterans of the series.

I had expected to be swept up in a wave of nostalgia, instead I saw those at Pixar beat my childhood around the head with a cricket bat, hopefully this time they’ve finished the job though. When Toy Story 3 was first announced I’d thought it was a bit of a push, but it worked superbly given its metaphors and allusions to its audience growing up alongside Andy and the toys. Toy Story 4 has none of that depth, and instead answers a feeble subplot that everybody had forgotten about. Ironic then that audiences will forget Toy Story 4 in a matter of weeks.