Movie Review - Toy Story 4
The early 2000's or the first decade of the new millennium was Pixar's prime era. It's been the golden decade for the company. Prior to Toy Story 3, pretty much every single film Pixar produced was absolute gold, including Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), WALL-E (2008) and Up (2009). It could do no wrong. Pixar was hitting home-runs with every single title it released and Toy Story 3 was the pinnacle. Toy Story 3 was even nominated for five Oscars at the 83rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It made over a billion dollars at the global box office by itself. It was also seen as a kind of ending to the series. It concluded with probably one of the best endings that has ever been committed to cinema, so the question is why this fourth installment?
Josh Cooley has been a writer for Pixar since 2009. He was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Inside Out. This film is his directorial debut. He does a good job. Again, this film is entertaining. It isn't boring, but it certainly doesn't steer the company back toward its golden era. It's certainly not as good as Toy Story 3. It's a fairly fun ride, but it doesn't have the emotional heft as its predecessor. It's not a knockout on a gut level. Basically, Toy Story 3 made me cry. This film has sentimental moments for sure, but this one didn't hit me to my core the way Toy Story 3 did. Maybe it's because this film is the fourth in the series and it's difficult to keep hitting home-runs after over 25 years since this franchise started. Maybe, that's not even what Cooley was aiming to do. Maybe, he was just aiming for a single or an infield hit, but at this point, that's not what I expect, certainly not from a billion-dollar franchise by Pixar.
What crazy loyal means is that he'll do anything to stay with that child. In all of the previous films, and this one is no exception, something happens that separates the toy from the child. Sometimes, it's the parent of the child wanting to clean up and deciding to throw toys away. Sometimes, it can be by accident. The child can be forgetful and leave the toy somewhere. Whatever the reason, Woody always sees it as his job to find a way to get back to his child. He's like a loyal puppy dog. He also feels the same responsibility for the other toys around him. Woody isn't just a cowboy. He's a sheriff who makes sure the other toys who are his charge don't get lost. His motto is "no toy left behind." He'll always try to save a toy that a child favors. He sees it as a very important kinship or bond between child and toy, one that he will preserve at all cost.
This is most likely a key theme of the film. Bonnie and her parents go on a road trip. Along the way, Forky jumps from the back window of the RV that Bonnie's father has rented. Woody has to go after him and bring Forky back before Bonnie realizes he's gone. Woody and Forky get diverted inside an antiques shop called Second Chance Antique. The shop's name also echoes the key theme of this film.
When it comes to the end, it was somewhat predictable. I went into this film thinking that there would be no way that it could top the ending to Toy Story 3. Again, Cooley might not have even been trying to top it, but, invariably, those comparisons are going to be made. The bar has been set too high and this film doesn't come close. When it comes to the theme, relating to "second chance," there are two characters who really have to choose to take that leap into their second chance or different life direction. While it was sentimental, the emotion from those two characters making their choices didn't translate as hard as it did during the final choices with the characters of Toy Story 3.
If this isn't the end and within ten years or so, we get the fifth installment, Toy Story 5, my hope is that the movie moves way from the conceit that the toys have to pretend to not be alive around children. Let the toys' secret lives not be secret any more!
Rated G for all audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.