toy story

Release Date: June 21, 2019
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Joan Cusack
Director: Josh Cooley
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Spoilers: Medium
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
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This was a perfectly enjoyable movie that no one ever asked for.

Back when Pixar was in its heyday, I watched a documentary about the company. It focused on the company’s wacky creatives and pulled back the curtain on some of the most groundbreaking animation in film. The company was intent that the team wouldn’t produce a film if they didn’t feel that they had a unique, compelling story to tell.

I have one question.

Where did that philosophy go?

Somewhere between Wall-E and Toy Story 4, I think it got lost along the way. Now, we get a series of blandly nice, keep-the-lights-on, creatively bereft, if not outright lazy, sequels – I’m talking your Finding Nemo and Cars 2‘s and 3’s.

Where has the magic gone?

I don’t know, but you won’t find much of it here.

Part of the joy of Pixar (beyond its incredibly lifelike, lightyear propulsion of the art of animation) is its ability to tell emotional stories. The company was able to capture emotion and jerk tears. They captured the ‘it’ factor, and they recreated their success again and again.

It was incredible how one company could take your heart and twist it into bits with 2 minutes of an aging couple’s love story (Up) or make you feel achingly lonely for a trash-compacting robot. Both without saying a single word.

Toy Story 4 was a perfectly nice movie. I’m sure it will do well for the company. It’s fun to watch, perfect to merchandise. The orchestra does the most, and the stellar voice actors do the rest.

The storyline, however, does very little to add to the franchise. The stakes weren’t high enough. In the other movies, it was all about losing and finding families, new connections, about growing up and letting go. This movie fits less thematically with the rest.

Instead, it’s more of a road-trip movie with some comedic horror elements. We focus on Woody’s journey toward fulfillment, and the scary thought that it might not be with his current family.

With Bonnie increasingly leaving Woody on the shelf, he tries to find new ways to keep her happy. One of those ways is by keeping the dorkily hilarious Sporky (a spork with googley eyes and pipe cleaner arms) from running away from Bonnie and throwing himself in the trash.

When the family goes on a road trip and Sporky gets lost, Woody has to track him down and bring him home. Along the way, he runs into an antique shop filled with creepy ventriloquist dolls run by a megalomaniac talking doll with a broken voicebox. This horror-esque comedy definitely got the most laughs and jump scares from the audience. It was the high point of the movie.

Woody then reunites with Little Bo Peep, who has been living her best life as an independent toy traveling wherever she pleases. (I have thoughts about how the creators coded her, but I’ll leave it at there’s no way this chick is straight. Peep is a gay icon #pride)

Also there’s some fun carnival action scenes with the brilliant Key & Peele playing plush prizes.

Everything is enjoyable, but nothing really rips you into pieces and glues you back together with a cleansing cry. There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing innovative, and there’s nothing really emotional. It’s the perfectly pleasant movie that no one asked for.

4 is just a little too far, and Pixar has set the bar a little too high. If I didn’t have the context of the rest of the series, this would have been a pretty good movie. But I do have that context. And Toy Story 4 just falls flat in comparison.

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