Toy Story 4

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm having a hard time with this movie.

On one hand, it's better than anything to hit the multiplexes in quite a long time. On the other hand, it has problems that are not inherent in other Toy Story films.

The previous films in the series all began with Andy playing with his toys in grandiose fashion that established a world of creative possibility within the film (and with the film itself). This begins 9 years in the past with Woody trying to rescue RC, and I don't know why. I do know why they didn't want to include Andy playing with his toys (because he's not in the story anymore), but it should have began with Bonnie playing with her toys. Seeing playtime from her POV is not something we've seen before. We've seen rescues a bunch.

This opening rubbed me the wrong way, and I don't feel the rescue of RC tied in with the rest of the story. It felt like tacked-on conflict rather than an event that demonstrated something essential we as viewers needed to be aware of for a later payoff.

The opening totally gave away the fact that Bo Peep was going to be in the film later. Maybe that was the point, but it might have worked better as a surprise for the audience. Her character journey to this film was fine, if not straight out of Fury Road, right down to losing an arm - which never paid off later. Why even show that if you aren't going to do something with it? And the way Bo emasculated Woody inside the nightclub setting, calling him her "accessory" and treating him like worthless shit felt totally wrong, needless, and honestly quite disgusting. Pro tip: tearing men down doesn't build women up.

There needed to be a scene at the end when Woody is thinking about staying with Bo and he turns to her and says, "Hey, remember when you were treating me like a total piece of shit for no reason? I do." and he walks the fuck away back to Bonnie.

Buzz is in this movie for reasons unknown. Because he was in the previous films is the only reason. What does he do that motivates the direction of the story? He does fuck-all. And the "Buzz quirk" this time around makes no sense. I thought we established that he understood he was a toy in the very first movie. That was kind of his entire character arc. Now he doesn't understand how his voice activation works? That was literally the fucking thing that made him realize he was a toy! He pressed a button and heard the same command that was on TV at Sid's house. This was so contrived, unmotivated, and not even funny. Buzz Lightyear used to be one of the best parts of these films. In this one, he's the worst.

So many of the older characters that were essential for each "mission" are glorified extras in this movie and most of them do absolutely nothing at all. But we still get new toy characters who are involved in the action of the story, because I guess enough Rex dinosaur toys were sold already. Do we really need that Polly Pocket cop lady that also does nothing? Each of the toy characters were essential in the previous films, but that is not true for Toy Story 4.

Gabby Gabby makes for a weak-noodle villain, if you can even call her such. I assume they were going for the kind of antagonist we can empathize with, and I almost did, but she wasn't much of an antagonist at all. She wanted Woody's voice box, which he eventually gave to her and suffered in exactly NO WAY after doing so. In order for this to be a sacrifice, Woody needed to suffer in some way, not simply go on with his toy life as if nothing's changed. He wasn't even played with after this. There is no scene where a child, like Bonnie, realizes he can't speak any more, and therefore devalues and discards him. That should have been his arc, but that happened off-screen before the movie began proper. Bonnie already didn't give a flying rat's fuck about Woody anymore, so what is Woody giving up, exactly? His lasso? That's it? Really? For a Toy Story movie, that's it? That's like Jeff Bezos spending $20 billion to end homelessness and still having $100 billion left over. What a HUGE sacrifice!

Forky MacGuffin is...I don't even know what to say. He's in the movie for a little while, he's the most important part of the movie for that stretch, and then he's basically just sitting around doing nothing while other toy characters engage in the movement and development of the story. He doesn't even play a role in the end with Woody deciding to go or stay. This, too, felt too disjointed and not fluid enough. It made the movie feel like there was a lack of focus, that the disparate ends were not coming together as well as they have in previous Pixar and Toy Story films. This is upsetting because I feel that the filmmakers could have really done something with the idea of Forky instead of abandoning him in favor of other characters with less-interesting conflicts.

There are a lot of things I love about this film and a lot of moments that work great, but there are too many that don't work nearly as well. This script needed at least one more pass, perhaps two or three, to bring it all together into ONE story. This felt like an episode of Toy Story the TV series in which multiple plot threads were going on at the same time independently of one another, hoping to come together in the season finale. But they don't.

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