Time for the final Toy Story adventure. At least from the main films as there are still spinoffs to check out. Toy Story 3 was and still is the definitive title in the series. 4 does its best to follow suit and it is nostalgic to see the old characters again but ultimately it doesn’t match the first 3 titles. I’d still call it a good movie in its own right but it probably would work best as being right before 3 instead of after.
The movie starts with a flashback where we see how and why Bo Peep left the house. Andy’s sister was planning to get rid of Bo so she hid in a box and allowed herself to be taken away. We cut to the present where Bonnie is slowly growing out of her toys and Woody isn’t being played with much anymore. He isn’t the leader of the squad anymore since that’s the job for Bonnie’s main toys so things just aren’t as smooth as they used to be.
At school, Bonnie creates a toy of her own named Forky. This toy wants to die which is pretty dark for a kid’s film but Woody forces him to stay in the game and tried to teach Forky why he must now act like a true toy. This would be a 15 minute film except that Woody then sees Bo outside. It turns out that she is a lost toy now who just roams around. Woody isn’t thrilled to hear about this but Bo actually likes the setup. She now has a lot of freedom to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. Woody must now decide if he wants to stay with her or go back to his life of being neglected at home. Additionally, there is a girl named Gabby who wants Woody’s voice box so he has to be careful.
That’s the main plot but we also have a sub plot for Buzz and the rest of the old toys. Buzz leads a rescue mission to find Woody but the problem is that he isn’t very smart anymore. He forgets how to think for himself and also doesn’t realize that he is a toy anymore so he listens to his own sound box. It’s a very odd subplot and I can see why many would say it was a waste of time. It’s nice seeing the old characters but this guy doesn’t act like how Buzz used to. It’s a pretty big contrast especially after watching the first three films back to back.
The Woody plot is really the meat and potatoes of the film. In the third film he decided that living as someone’s toy was his ultimate dream. It didn’t matter if they would eventually grow bored of him because one day he would go on to the next owner and the next. Well, here is has to actually follow through on that and you can tell he is starting to have some regrets. Bonnie doesn’t really care for his toy as much as the others and being stuck in the closet every day is no fun.
Bo makes a valid point that being a free toy is even better because you can play with the kids when you want to and then just do your own thing as well. It’s the best of both worlds and it might be a bit more dangerous but there’s never a dull moment. I’m cool with Woody seeing the light here and it’s an engaging plot.
The movie also does a good job of making Gabby appear to be an intimidating villain. She has nothing on the guy from 3, but she’s tough and has her own army which is cool. The film even lets her scenes get rather dark with some ominous music and a few jump scares happening during her moments. She is respected so much that nobody dares go against her. Now that’s a lot of props.
From the new characters, the weakest one was definitely Forky though. Even by the end I was not a fan of this guy. You definitely can’t count on him when the chips are down and all he does is get in the way. He’s constantly running for his life so I could have done without him. The gag of trying to jump into the trash wasn’t funny after a bit. He did have some good lines though like when he called Woody trash.
Bo isn’t a new character but she might as well be since this is her first big appearance. She was definitely a blast and one of the highlights in the film. She has a lot of confidence now as well as experience. She’s come a long way from her old days as a toy and it shows. She’s a good example of positive character development.
There’s Duke who is a fun character. The guy has an emotional backstory to be sure. Still, Duke has tried to move past that and is still good at his car tricks. He doesn’t appear until fairly deep into the film but he looks good. Finally you have Gabby. As mentioned, she’s a decent villain. She doesn’t stand out as much as some of the others but she definitely does have a commanding presence.
The humans probably get the smallest role out of the 4 films and I am definitely okay with that. Bonnie appears for a bit and while I can’t blame her for ditching Woody it would have been nice if she could have done something more in the plot. Not in terms of more screen time but with the moments she did get, maybe stopping some villains or something.
One thing I do question is how the toys seem to be able to move at will all the time. To me it always seemed like there was something built into the very nature of their being which prevents them from moving once the humans are around. It’s why everyone is so perfect about it. No human has ever discovered that toys are alive because they all know to stop moving immediately yet Forky breaks that rule by constantly trying to move. If not for Woody pinning him down the humans would have noticed. You also have Buzz actually moving his hands to keep pushing the buttons even while he was being held.
This can be explained as the toys just usually doing the right thing and staying still but to me the cleaner explanation was always that they couldn’t move. It’s easier to explain the humans never figuring things out if that was the case. This starts to get really into the details though so it’s not a big thing.
The animation looks pretty solid and definitely has the newest look out of all of them. The way the films show the toys is always impressive since they do look like the real things even while they are talking. The soundtrack is pretty decent as well with the danger themes popping up. The writing may be a step down from the first 3 films but at the end of the day the characters are still good and this should keep your attention.
Overall, Toy Story 4 couldn’t match up to the first 3 but with how good they were, maybe a drop was inevitable at some point. It did feel like the story was thrown together a little quicker with the old characters just going through the motions while Woody did all of the heavy lifting. At this point the cast was quite large so good luck remembering most of the new ones. You had these two birds who were quite intense in their plans of how to attack the old lady near the end of the film but I doubt you’ll remember their names. Bo is the standout character here with the fun banter she gets throughout. This is the kind of confidence you need when you’re on the run. If you’re up for a fun film with the toys then this is still a good bet. I doubt we’ll be getting a Toy Story 5 anytime soon so this may be your last chance to see them.