As an admitted skeptic of Toy Story 4, I’m happy to report that the movie proves to be another quality Pixar production. Whether it’s exceptional enough to justify its reason for existence, though, is a different story.
I would describe this movie as more of an epilogue than a true sequel to the original Toy Story trilogy, because while Woody and Bo Peep take some of the spotlight, the focus here is undeniably on the new cast of toys. Thankfully, these characters are hilarious and more than welcome additions to the ensemble. Keanu Reeves as a Canadian stuntman is as delightful as you would expect, but Key and Peele’s banter as two carnival toys is really what stole the whole movie for me. But as with any Pixar movie (let’s just pretend Cars 2 doesn’t exist), Toy Story 4 is going to ask some deep questions…so what better way to do that than with a talking spork? Yes, really; this is Forky’s movie, and he is here to make you question your own existence. This obviously comes off as a bit heavy-handed and bizarre, but I think that’s kinda what they were going for, and it’s all handled with such thought and care that it ultimately ends up being one of the most emotionally resonant parts of the movie. So, yes, congratulations to Pixar on being the first studio to make people cry over a spork.
And the animation in this movie? Absolutely ludicrous. This is easily Pixar’s most visually impressive outing to date, featuring many shots that could absolutely seem live-action upon first glance. Everything from the particle effects to the lighting is staggering in detail, but part of me is worried about the longevity of this appeal. Pixar’s 3D animation style has become so ubiquitous that it’s beginning to feel uninspired, and when the art direction simply aims at photo-realism (and when the animation is as good as Pixar’s) then an uncanny valley effect is inevitable. This isn’t a pressing issue as of right now, but I hope that in the future Pixar can use their technical wizardry to adopt more unconventional animation styles.
Toy Story 4 is a fun, toy-sized adventure that is unquestionably a good time at the movies. It just feels a bit anticlimactic to return to a perfect trilogy after nine years for anything less than a firework show. That’s more of me having issue with the movie’s existence than the movie itself, but as charming as this goodbye may be, it ultimately isn’t as poignant or necessary as the one we got in 2010. But, hey, in a summer where well-made movies are few and far between, you take what you can get.