Toy Story 4 ★★★★★


"Find your inner voice."

Pixar had me sobbing alone in a theater packed full of children and families while watching a movie about talking toys. Nothing has changed.

The first three Toy Story films did a great many things right. Whether discussing jealousy between various toys and their owners, the terror of abandonment, or the melancholia of growing up, they were each educational tools for children as well as swift, graceful action pictures, bursting with foot chases and plans gone sour and the stress of a toy left behind. No matter how the original Toy Story trilogy ended up in your Pixar ranking, they're surely near the top, ranging from excellent to near-perfect cultural objects of evolving animation, in addition to keeping a tight grasp on the maturation of their audience. If the original Toy Story was an ingenious 81 minute concept reel, by the time the third film rolled into theaters, the studio was determined to provide a bittersweet ode to not only Andy's childhood, but the childhood of the audience that was raised, in a sense, by the morals and adventures of these toys.

So, of course, when Toy Story 4 was announced in November of 2014, we all had our doubts. What else is there left to say? This isn't Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, which were single films beckoning to be expanded upon. The Toy Story trilogy was, by the end of its run, a triumphant tribute to the trials and tribulations of childhood, as wistful as Boyhood and as dewy-eyed as Stand By Me. Safe to say, Pixar is battling both the nostalgia of (now) older adults as well as the children who have grown up since the release of the first three films. But Pixar, being the geniuses that they are, and with a magnificent screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton, decided to wrestle with the franchise's own meaninglessness and its place today, away from Andy and removed from the status of the original trilogy.

Toy Story 4 is, then, a tale not in relation to Andy or the current relationship of Bonnie, but how the toys are learning to accept themselves as individuals and not conduits for their human friends. Josh Cooley's film breaks down the usual narrative function of the toys always dealing with the child they've been chosen by via an existential understanding of the world in which they reside. The people who loved you will always love you, but nothing lasts forever. And it's OK to move on, to seek new pastures, to discover yourself and be surrounded by people who make *you* happy, and that those you have lived with you, respect you, and want the best for you, will understand. By reconciling the anxieties of Woody being unable to move on from Andy, Toy Story 4 emerges as another Pixar masterpiece, one just as peppy, sharp, hilarious and sophisticated as all the others, with a treasure-trove of newly indelible characters, but it knows its time is limited, comfortable in the minutes that it still has to spare. I'm thankful of Pixar for the opportunity.

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