director: Josh Cooley
writer: Andrew Stanton & Stephany Folsom
starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts and Tony Hale
genre: Animation | Adventure | Comedy*
released: 20 June 2019 (Australia & Greece), 21 June 2019 (USA), 15 August 2019 (Germany)
The film that started the CGI animation fest is back and it’s the first time in the series where we could have lived without its new story being told. Nonetheless, ‘Toy Story 4’ isn’t a terrible movie or a bad option to take the family out in terms of entertainment value, but it isn’t worth full ticket price as its predecessors were or even compared to some of its current competition.
The toys led by Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) are still getting used to the status quo under their new owner Bonnie and most heavily impacted of all is the no longer favorite toy Woody. Not only being pushed aside by Bonnie, but also with a new toy in Forky (Tony Hale) grabbing her attention. With this Woody assumes the role of caretaker for him and will soon realize that his purpose is possibly no longer there to be a toy for another child. During a family trip with Bonnie he will end up reuniting with old friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and understand that the life of a toy can be lived in more than one way and possibly alongside a long lost friend.
Personally, I was disappointed by the announcement of another ‘Toy Story’ after the last film’s incredible execution and bittersweet ending that was a fitting emotional, logical and narrative conclusion for the series. As the ultimate purpose of these toys was their need to be there for Andy and the question with the third movie was if they could be anything else without him. This perfectly led to a film that had high stakes and most incredible of conclusions where you thought the end was nigh for our beloved toys. This film fails to accomplish that same feat of peril for the toys and their overall meaning in the world. Despite pushing real hard this new purpose on the toys point of existence with new characters, Bonnie’s family focus and the converging directions it lets its characters to go on.
This converging direction all culminates from the new status quo under Bonnie. Naturally, a different one where not all characters are benefited. This makes Woody try to find again his purpose which is not to be a leader anymore, but a loyal follower and mere protector of the status quo. However, the film attempts to be more than that by having Woody reunite with Bo Peep again. This brings another light to the toy’s existence, by not only being faithful followers of their owners, but some being aimless toys and living selfless lives looking inwards. In the end this life tantalizes Woody to give up on his true purpose for a new one. Which firstly makes the audience question much more the point of the toys existence and consciousness in this fictional world and secondly contradicts the second film’s overall meaning that the purpose of a toy is to be played with first and everything else second (Woody’s conundrum of being a toy in a museum versus being a play toy for a child).
Furthermore, it creates the issue of which band of toys is more important and worth following a potential fifth film for. The rebellious lost toys who live for themselves in the wild world or the band of toys that live for their owners well-being with a clear and defined purpose. Inherently, this creates a division between the audience on how life should be lived, instead of leaving them with a unifying feeling of a family collective as the previous films did.
Additionally, it’s interesting how the production decided to show how a toy is born in Forky, which is through the love of a child/owner. And based on this logic wouldn’t it have been fitting to show that once you lose that love and you as a toy no longer seek that benevolent love, you will die consequently? Naturally, if this was done, they would have made a clear choice between which group is best and that the consequences of going down that route being severe.
Finally, the reason why the above had to be mentioned, more so than everything else in the production is that this is what sets it apart from the rest of the films in the series. As the films that came before all reached greatness on many levels and for different reasons, whereas this film only is passable in comparison. No matter the amount of decent jokes, adventure sequences and array of famous voice actors it has. This deeper meaning is what made us fall in love with these films and their characters drive and fight for relevance in Andy’s life and now in Bonnie’s. Now, that some have left that life behind, who cares.
What made this series once special is now gone. The fact that you are aware that the film’s narrative is to conclude rather than wondering how it will conclude is its biggest downfall and the road of redefining itself when there was nothing wrong with it in the first place was not a wise decision.