As long as I can remember, Toy Story has been my favorite movie. As a kid, all I wanted to do was watch the first and second movies, savoring every second spent with Woody and the gang. Now, Toy Story 3 seemed like the perfect ending for the series, so even a hardcore fan such as myself was apprehensive about this fourth entry. Luckily, Toy Story 4 is yet another masterwork from Pixar, and a worthy entry into their flagship series.
Josh Cooley, who was a writer for Pixar’s Inside Out, takes the lead on this feature with confidence and finesse. The film does not waste a second, moving from beat to beat with a smoothness and simplicity that is refreshing in the often overly-complex world of blockbusters. Cooley gives this entry the series’ trademark sense of adventure, as well as mixing in romantic and even some light horror elements (those ventriloquist dummies are scary!). This film feels confident in the message it is telling, and earns every laugh, gasp, and tear. Hopefully Cooley becomes a mainstay for Pixar because he clearly knows how to guide a story.
Toy Story 4 has a few different plot strands that weave together in surprising ways. On the surface, it’s about Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang helping Forky, a new “toy” made by Bonnie, adjust to being a toy. It’s also about Woody’s search for Bo Peep, and the notion of hanging onto the past. It’s some powerful stuff that immediately eased my fears regarding how necessary this sequel is. Taking viewers from Bonnie’s house, to an antique store, to a carnival, the plot is always moving forward and has a terrific sense of momentum, making payoffs feel that much more impactful and earned.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
By now, we know that the Toy Story series has one of the most talented voice casts ever assembled. However, this movie is very much about Woody, and Tom Hanks turns in easily his best work as the iconic sheriff. His character becomes fully realized in this film, to some surprising ends. The other focus is on Tony Hale’s Forky, a sweet presence that helps to show the purpose of toys in this world in a brand new way. The interactions between Woody and Forky are some of the film’s finest moments. Other notable newcomers are Duke Caboom, a stuntman voiced terrifically by Keanu Reeves, and Gabby Gabby, an abandoned doll voiced by Christina Hendricks. The characters are just as wonderful as you remember, and the new additions round out the cast nicely.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
From the laughter of children to the sounds of carnival rides in the distance, this movie sounds just as good as it looks. Combine that with a score that knows exactly how to use classic themes and tracks from the past to wonderful effect, and you have a complete package. There’s a reason the music from this series is so iconic.
WOW. Multiple times throughout this film, I was floored by how stunningly animated everything is. Environments are practically lifelike, with incredible lighting and texture. Likewise, all the toys are detailed down to the last fiber, stitch, and scratch on plastic, showcasing how far this series has come from the first groundbreaking entry. The screen is almost always soaked in color and light that is always inviting and never overbearing, resulting in easily the most beautifully animated film of the year so far.
I always do my best to set aside bias when reviewing a film and even disregarding my overwhelming love for this series, I found this movie nothing less than enchanting. Between the gorgeous animation, fully realized characters, and deserved emotional moments, Toy Story 4 is immensely satisfying. It made me wonder why I ever doubted this film’s existence. It helped me get back in touch with my inner child and reconnect to the legendary first trilogy of films in this series. To infinity and beyond, this entry soars just as high.