Review: TOY STORY 4

By Josh Muchly

I’ll take a Disney sequel over a Disney do-over any Friday night at the movies.

Upshot: The fourth installment of the popular franchise focuses on Woody (Tom Hanks) and the conflict between his duty to child-owner Bonnie and his desire to live with Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

Rundown: The opening scene begins with a flashback nine years ago, on a rainy night when Woody put the needs of his child, Andy, before his own; before his love. The animation is so crisp, it’s easy to forget you watching an “animated” film. It feels more like a “tech-rendered moving-image-experience.” Truly awe-inspiring.

If I can be honest, I teared-up in the opening scene…. Then, once more when Bo-Peep and Woody find each other…. And again, when the goodbyes are said. During the credits, I found myself wondering: “Would it be so bad if the future of movies was the cinematic universe? the long-form on-going saga?”

It’s been quite a touching journey, Woody’s. He started as selfish and jealous; the favorite toy supplanted by a new arrival (Buzz). Woody has had to learn to put children before himself. And he has done so; over and over. Then he learned he must put the needs of other toys before his — that to lead is to serve.

Now, he has to un-learn. To follow his heart. Woody’s always had a hard time letting go. Letting go of his status; letting go of Andy. Now, he needs to let go of “tasks,” “orders,” and “routine.” Let go of Bonnie and having any “owner.”

And, we may have to let go of Woody in exchange….

Perhaps TOY STORY 5 will be an adventure featuring Buzz (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack)! All I know is, I’ll take a Disney sequel over a Disney do-over any Friday night at the movies.

High-point: the new characters. Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom was delightful, as were Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Ducky and Bunny. Forky (Tony Hale) is a wonderful character and acts as a catalyst for revisiting why toys are “a child’s plaything” to begin with. Children need playthings during certain periods of development; then, they move on. They grow up and leave the toys behind, as we’ve seen.

Low-point: Bullseye. I try to keep my reviews consistent. If I can find one minor criticism, it’s that I don’t think Bullseye would be so easily displaced from Woody. If one recalls, in TOY STORY 2, Bullseye and Woody were inseparable; now, they’re barely seen together. It’s not catastrophic to the narrative, but it feels like an oversight. And it exposes a potential problem inherent in the cinematic universe: some beloved characters are lost along the way. Bo-Peep was one of them! Is Bullseye next? For that matter, what happens to Forky? Duke Kaboom? Ken and Barbie? The more characters we are introduced to, the more characters we need to explore — especially if we connect to them! A cinematic universe, then, might never conclude in a manner satisfying.

TOY STORY 4 (if this is truly the “end”) gets as close as possible.

Muchly Scale: 7 out of 7


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