Things aren’t allowed to end anymore, especially not stories in film and TV. Whether it’s an unnecessary follow-up season to what should’ve been a mini-series (Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why) or rehashes of series that concluded long ago (Roseanne, Fuller House), or further chapters in film franchises that felt finished (Jason fucking Bourne comes to mind). The latest installment is the fourth chapter in the Toy Story story which follows up one of the most successful trilogies in history (really, only this and the original Bourne trilogy can claim to not have a weak chapter). While I don’t think the film fully justifies its need to come back, it’s still an entertaining tale that features some of the old favorites, though I think it lacks the emotional impact of numbers 2 and (especially) 3.
This time around, the film tracks just after the last one, with all of Andy’s old toys setting up house in new kid Bonnie’s world. She doesn’t have the same affinity for Woody (Tom Hanks) that Andy did, so he’s often relegated to being sheriff of the closet with other leftover toys. Bonnie’s new favorite toy is Forky the googly-eyed spork that she made in kindergarten. Voiced by Tony Hale, Forky moves from tired joke to scene-stealing favorite pretty effortlessly and the film is mostly the Woody and Forky show, with an unexpected meetup with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who missed the last installment. With so many other characters to serve-Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom, the Canadian daredevil, Key and Peele’s Ducky and Bunny, and Christina Hendricks’ kind of villain Gabby Gabby-all winners by the way, old favorites like Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) have little to do. Oh, and the less said about the truly evil puppet guards the better. Those things were terrifying.
First-time director Josh Cooley keeps the old formula alive, mostly in finding the fantastical out of the mundane, as in the final set piece in an antique shop. While there is an attempt at emotional resonance, it really fell flat for me, one, because I just didn’t agree with the premise, and two, it sort of reinforces that bad behavior wins out. While Forky’s presence is certainly a welcome addition, the cast of toys is now so (ahem) overstuffed that it was hard to find any rooting value in anyone outside of Woody. The movie wasn’t bad, at all, in fact it’s still pretty great, but it’s also disappointing in that it kind of taints the overall Toy Story legacy and reframes the cycle the first three movies showcased. As a huge fan of the first three, it makes it really difficult to reconcile number 4. Sure, it’s easy to just give yourself over to the movie and be blissfully entertained for an hour and forty some minutes, but I’d rather live in the fantasy world where actions have consequences and stories have endings.
My Grade – B