Toy Story 4: Is It Any Good?
Sequels to successful movies are always a great cause of anxiety to both movie-goers and the people who make the movies. The films only happen because of heavy fan demand, but the process of making them can spoil a franchise – and taint the memory of the original – if they’re done wrong. People have been looking forward to ‘Toy Story 4’ for years now, but there’s always been a question about the wisdom of making it. The glorious, tear-jerking finale of ‘Toy Story 3’ seemed like the perfect send-off for our all-time favorite toys, so what’s the point of getting them out to play again? More importantly than that, having done so, have Disney Pixar provided us with another fantastic film?
We Were Promised Tears
If you’re under 35, ‘Toy Story’ and the films that have come after it is more than just a series of films. They’re an important part of your childhood, and you’ve grown up alongside them. You’d have been little more than a child yourself when the first movie came out in 1995, and so you’ve grown up as Andy, the human star of the films, has grown up also. You’ll have gone to college when he went to college. Now, you’re approaching middle age, and you probably got rid of the majority of your childhood toys a long time ago. If you still do have any – possibly in the basement, or in your parent’s garage – they likely evoke a powerful feeling of nostalgia every time you see them. The toys we played with as children remind us of happier, simpler, more carefree times in our lives.
‘Toy Story’ wasn’t just a success with children, though. One of the big shocks about the success of the original film is how many adults saw it, and found themselves equally moved by the action on screen as their children. Nobody in the entertainment world seemed to understand how evocative and motivating nostalgia was to an audience until ‘Toy Story’ proved it. Now it’s being used to excellent effect everywhere. If you look at an mobile casino like Amigoslots.com, you’ll find a series of mobile slots called ‘Fluffy Favourites,’ numbering more games than there are’ Toy Story’ films. The UK casino games star a cast of soft toys who have come to life, and help adults win money. Given that online casinos are a place for adults, it’s unlikely that the hugely-popular games would exist were it not for ‘Toy Story.’ They do, and the people who made them are earning fortunes with them.
With nostalgia comes sorrow. Although toys and childhood memories can make us smile, they can also make us sad. As fun as reminiscing might be, those times are gone forever now. We can never get them back. That’s partially why we were all crying our eyes out during ‘Toy Story 3.’ According to Tom Hanks, things would be even harder to deal with emotionally this time around. He found recording his final lines so traumatic that he had to break off from recording them because he was crying. If one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time was so affected, what chance do the rest of us have? And is their laughter to go with the tears?
The answer to the above question is ‘of course there is, this is a Toy Story movie.’ It’s not a spoiler to tell you that you’ll likely be crying before all is said and done – this is (almost certainly) the last ‘Toy Story’ that will ever be made, so it was inevitably going to be bittersweet. But the trademark charm, wit, and sweetness that’s been a trademark of the series so far are all here, too.
Strip away the fact that all the characters are toys, and this is actually a film about existentialism. It sees Woody, realizing that he’s fast coming towards the end of his usefulness as a toy, and accepting that nothing lasts forever. It’s a film about accepting the fleeting nature of life, and accepting that everything will have its time, and everything will end. If that sounds a little too deep for those of you planning to take your young children along with you to see it (be honest, you’re more interested in it than they are), there’s also a character named ‘Forky’ made from a spork and pipe-cleaners, and they’re in the film singularly for the purpose of delivering laughs.
The plot is perhaps a little guilty of treading yet again over familiar ground – we’ve seen the ‘toy gets lost and needs rescuing’ narrative played out before, and we don’t learn much more from it this time around, but really that’s just the backdrop for the jokes and the emotive beats of the script. The only people who may be disappointed by the end product are those of you who are big fans of Buzz Lightyear – he’s still in the film, but he’s very much a background character. This is a movie about Woody, as it should be – he was the character we started this story with, and he’s also the one we’re closing with.
In among all the chaos and the sugary sweetness, ‘Toy Story 4’ manages to find time to cram in an appearance by current man-of-the-moment Keanu Reeves, who recently seems to be everywhere. Reeves is undergoing something of a career renaissance, and his vocal performance here as the hilariously over the top stunt-toy ‘Duke Kaboom’ dominates every scene he appears in. It’s perhaps an even-more-macho take on Buzz’s character from the first film, but it works – largely due to Reeves’ commitment to the lines.
You largely know what you’re going to get from this film – laughter, tears, and heart. If you wanted to read a review to confirm that you won’t be disappointed by it, you’ve found one. If you already love the ‘Toy Story’ films, there’s not a chance that this one will ruin them for you. It’s already breaking records at the box office, and it’ll likely break a fair few more – and plenty of hearts – before its run comes to an end. Go and see it – you won’t regret it.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.