“Toy Story 4” is an interesting concept.
From its conception to its rollout, to me physically watching in the theater I had one question, “OK, yes, but why?” The first two films came out in the 90’s before I was born but their popularity was at an all-time high, so I was raised on a healthy dose of the franchise. The third movie came out when I was around 7-years-old. While the plot of Andy leaving for college and growing up is something now I now understand and empathize with at 17-years-old more than I did as a kid, I definitely understood the idea of it being a bittersweet finale.
Ten years later with “Toy Story 4,” I’m not sure who the target audience is supposed to be. Could it be for fans of the original film? Could be. But one thing I’ll note is the fact that pretty much everyone from the original cast (aside from Woody and Buzz) don’t really get much time to shine. The new story focuses on Woody and his relationship with the kids he’s always trying his best to look out for. Much of the theme centers paving your own destiny. In a way, Woody is forced between two worlds: the one he’s always known and the world he wants to venture out in.
While the premise of this movie is interesting, I’m still left with just one question — Why? “Toy Story 3” was a pretty good finale in its own right. This movie in a way feels similar to Disney’s live-action reboots like this spring’s “Aladdin” and the upcoming “The Lion King.” Disney has had a pretty strong track record putting out these live-action adaptations of their classic animated stories and while at first they were pretty harmless, this seems to be their only form of storytelling now. As a consumer of pop culture, the adaptations themselves aren’t bad but the over saturation of them is starting to feel overwhelming. I mean, come on Disney. When you have the Queen herself, Beyonce, in your movie (she’s the voice of Nala in the upcoming live-action “Lion King”) isn’t even enough for me to remember the release date, you might have a problem.
This movie sits firmly in the intersection of “This is a good film and you’re just letting the cynicism of the political climate get you down” and “This movie is a way to capitalize on my feelings of childhood nostalgia.” It feels obvious in scenes where we flashback to previous movies or especially with the character of Bo Peep. Bo Peep is a character that sent me on a 20-minute spiral down IMDB to find out if she was in any of the previous “Toy Story” movies. She is an interesting choice for a protagonist because I doubt that the kids going to see this movie are gonna truly care about her character arc in the movie.
After attending the advance screening of “TS4” I made the joke that this movie is almost the “Avengers: Endgame” of the “Toy Story Cinematic Universe (TSCU)” since this movie feels like a finale to a franchise we’ve spent so long with, and kinda keeps up the themes we saw in “Endgame.” There are parallels I can draw between both. But while “Endgame” focused on the original six Avengers, “TS4” instead spends the majority of the movie having you invest in a couple of new characters that I can promise you will fall in love with.
I felt a little disappointed that I figured out the essence of the plot about a third of the way through. Of course, this wasn’t helped by the fact the trailers for the movie basically give away 75 percent of the plot, by the time we’re introduced to out antagonist, everything else clicked for me.
This movie almost feels like a soft reboot in a way and the film’s conclusion basically splits things down into two different paths I could see Pixar acting on if they wanted to make another one of these films. I guess that’s kind of the problem. At the end of the day, “TS4” on its own is a good movie. I had fun watching it, I found it extremely hilarious at times and even a little emotional. But movies don’t exist in vacuums and when you take in the fact that this movie exists in a world where Disney now owns such a huge chunk of the box office with endless sequels and adaptations seeming to come out every two months, it’s hard to wonder why we as consumers should be driven to care about “Toy Story 4.”