In Brief: Toys aren’t supposed to grow up and a grown-up Toy Story isn’t all that much fun.
Most of the critics I know are like me. We are a hard-boiled lot and cynical to the core. Those remarks are needed to describe the impact Toy Story 3 and its predecessors had on many of us and to describe why Toy Story 4 is such a disappointment.
Toy Story 3 is the only film I’ve ever screened where I saw some critics crying. Some. Not all and not me. I will — however — admit to coming close. If any movie series — ever — had a perfect conclusion, Toy Story 3 was it. The film’s climax was beautiful and sad, but as sad as it was, Toy Story 3 also gave us closure. We knew our treasured toy friends were happy and safe.
So why ruin all that good karma and do Toy Story 4?
The first thought that came to my cynical mind is money. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang are a huge profit center for Disney. The first three movies grossed $1.9 billion worldwide. They cost about $320 million to produce so the profits are enormous. This one will add a significant amount to that total.
With those numbers it’s easy to see why producers at Disney and Pixar couldn’t resist doing a fourth one. That leads to the second part of the question on the table.
Fans and fandom.
Other than the money, no doubt Disney and the folks at Pixar are constantly pestered by insatiable fans wanting more. Demand gets producers looking harder at that $1.9 billion. So fandom is no doubt a major driver behind the production of the fourth film.
To say the least, number four is a let down. Actually that’s being nice. The fourth film is a disaster and that leads us to the plot. It starts nine years before present day. Bo Peep is given away by Andy’s sister. Woody — who loves her — attempts a rescue. Faced with a choice to go with her or stay with Andy, Woody stays.
It’s a life regret.
Years later, the new child, Bonnie, goes to kindergarten and makes a toy out of one of those plastic forks you throw away after using. She names him Forky and he becomes her favorite toy.
Things happen and Forky — who thinks he’s trash and belongs in the trash — escapes. Woody goes after him and while on that quest he finds Bo Peep. Finding her also leads to danger that Woody, Buzz and the other toys have to address.
You’ve probably seen the trailer or photos. Toy Story 4 looks like the others. The animation is impeccable and the music perfect. The voice work of a wonderful and talented group of actors is done exactly like the other films.
Everything is as it should be except for the story.
Not much works here until the third act and even then, and even with the only ending it could have that makes sense, Toy Story 4 just doesn’t work. Toys aren’t supposed to grow up yet Toy Story 4 is grown up. It’s more of a love story and a drama than a light animated feature.
Other than a running routine about Buzz finding his inner voice, it’s just not that much fun. We want it to be fun. It’s Toy Story. We want it to be kid-like. In a way, that it isn’t either of those things is ironic.
Being grown up is not necessarily a wrong move for the film’s eight writers. Most of the kids who saw the original movie in 1995 are now in their 30s and 40s. They’ve grown up with the franchise. It appears the franchise has grown up with them, too.
That takes us face-to-face with the film’s flaw. Sadly, many of you are going to drag your children or grandchildren to this thinking it’s like the other movies. Toy Story 4 is not. It’s more adult than child and the child in this adult was bored.
Worse, I cannot recommend this movie. The child in this adult, a kid wanting an entertaining reunion with some old, and very much loved friends, is disappointed. There is no better way to say it than this sequel sucks.
Director: Josh Cooley
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Hale, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeline McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Laurie Metcalf, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Carl Reiner, Bill Hader, Patricia Arquette, Timothy Dalton, Flea
Why do a sequel when the franchise’s third film was perfect and a perfect ending for the series? Money? Probably? Fan pressure? Probably. The result? A movie that is all over the place and just not that much fun. Give this a disappointing 2 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.