**There will be spoilers if you don’t want to hear anything about the 4th film**
A random diversion in topic considering I have been posting my various lists of best films over the past few decades…not to mention I watched TOY STORY 4 a few months ago so this isn’t exactly something brand new I just watched.
I do want to preface that on a basic level, I actually thought TOY STORY 4 was a good movie…in fact, I actually liked it more than TOY STORY 2 in terms of comparing it to the other films…but I also feel like we honestly didn’t need this film.
Do we honestly need ANY sequel?
As expected, that’s a loaded question. Some sequels are necessary if they are part of a series and not only that, those films can even build upon the original and be just as good or even a little better in some ways, like THE GODFATHER PART II or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or, to sort of bring it back to my current topic, TOY STORY 3.
Here is a private admission: the TOY STORY movies weren’t exactly favorites of mine as a kid. I definitely really liked them but I never returned to them often.
The first one came out in 1995. I had just turned 7 years old and was starting 1st Grade. At the time, the digital animation was a major selling point and it certainly worked…plus I was around the age of the Andy character so I seemed like the perfect demographic.
What I didn’t appreciate at the time due to my young age was how remarkable the screenplay was. The dialogue crackled for an animated movie and it is no wonder that it ended up becoming the first animated movie to get an Oscar nomination for it screenplay.
TOY STORY 2 came out in 1999 when I was in 5th grade. Despite the fact that this particular version got rave reviews to the point that people called it superior to the original and one of the best movies of that year (even winning Best Musical/Comedy Picture at the Golden Globes over the brilliant BEING JOHN MALKOVICH), I never connected to it on the same level.
Then came TOY STORY 3, which came out in 2010 right before I was slated to begin my senior year of college. By that point, I felt that a sequel wasn’t necessary and I felt it was a step back for Pixar, which had just released the stunning WALL-E in 2008.
Once the reviews for the movie came out, I was floored. People were saying it was even better than the first two and that it was worthy to win Oscars.
I became curious then….
This isn’t a review about TOY STORY 3 and I’m already rambling about it so I’ll try to keep this part brief.
Needless to say, TOY STORY 3 blew me away. It felt so well written and I loved the concept of Andy going off to college and the toys potentially being given away…and, another full disclosure, I have probably sat through the movie half a dozen times at least and I sob at the end.
TOY STORY 3 was the perfect sequel that had the most emotionally satisfying ending imaginable. What a way to go out!!
Then they announced TOY STORY 4….
Since the third film had been such a success in my eyes, I was willing to give a 4th film the benefit of the doubt.
Like I said, I quite enjoyed the 4th movie. It even had a sense of humor about it that was quite brash compared to the other 3 films and its setting which prominently featured an old antique shop and a glitzy carnival made for some really wonderful locales and shots to show off how much digital animation had improved since the original in 1995.
At the end of the third film, Andy gives his toys to a young girl named Bonnie just as he is about to drive off to begin college. One of the major things he said to Bonnie was that he really wanted her to take care of Woody…especially since she already had a connection with him and seemed to want to keep him despite Andy’s intentions to not part with him for sentimental reasons.
The 4th film completely unravels this sweet side by having Bonnie completely ignore Woody and often having him remain in the dusty closet with other toys she doesn’t particularly care about.
This development is something that has gotten a lot of criticism even though it probably seems like a crazy nitpick since Bonnie is a young child who probably has the attention span the size of a grain of rice.
However, at its core, it sort of cheapens the emotional bond that Andy and Bonnie briefly share over Woody in the third film.
TOY STORY 4 is basically a film about identity. Woody went from being a child’s best friend to now being cooped up in a closet…and at the expense of a toy that Bonnie made on her first day of school: a spork with googly eyes and pipe cleaners for body parts that she named Forky.
Forky, being a spork, has his own identity crisis: he feels he is meant for the trash and not for any other means so Woody, still trying to be there for Bonnie despite her neglect, is constantly trying to prevent Forky from, to put it in a very dark way, essentially committing suicide.
Bonnie and her parents are about to go on vacation and are driving an RV. Bonnie brings all of her toys but at one point, Forky dives out the window and Woody goes after him. Knowing that they will be stopping at a campground that night, Woody intends to walk back to them with Forky…which does occur…however Woody ends up encountering Bo Peep, a character that had been missing from the 3rd film and had been a love interest for Woody in the first two.
She had been given away previously (which we saw in a flashback at the beginning of the movie) and in the process, she became a lost toy…but not only that, she is now a toy in survival mode who tries to save other toys and often spends time hanging around the antique shop where she was originally left behind.
I hadn’t really planned on going to in depth this review…if I can call it that….although I guess it would be semi-pointless if I didn’t do some form of a review.
What I do want to get to is the ending, which is Woody actually choosing to stay behind with Bo Peep and becoming a lost toy, never to see his friends again.
On one hand, this seems to be what Woody wants and for that, we can be happy for him since he destiny for being Andy’s friend was fulfilled and he doesn’t share that bond with Bonnie…but…this still goes back to that moment where Andy has Bonnie promise him that she would take care of him.
Would Andy be that upset if he found out? Who knows what would happen with that…but I just feel like the fourth movie cheapened the emotional punch of TOY STORY 3.
I know I’m not alone with this thought process but I also know that perhaps those of us who are thinking it are being way too critical at the same time.
As it stands, my initial reaction upon completion of TOY STORY 4 was positive though somewhat empty…even though they were aiming for a similar feel to that of its predecessor.
It’s a good film in its own ways…but in the most basic and blunt of descriptions, it’s unnecessary.