Toy Story 4 movie review: Pixar surprises fans with an emotionally satisfying goodbye to iconic franchise
In Toy Story 4, Pixar demonstrates masterfully why they are still the best in the business.
castTom Hanks, Annie Potts, Keanu Reeves, Keagen-michael Key, Jordan Peele
There they go again – placing onions near our eyes. Pixar is now so good at doing this that the moment it happens in the finale of Toy Story 4, your body just slumps into the seat, giving in completely to the charms of a simple story with a big beating heart.
It is not often that you see a fourth film in a franchise that is almost as good as the previous instalments. In Toy Story 4, Pixar demonstrates masterfully why they are still the best in the business. They also substantiate that making things bigger is not necessarily better by porting this fourth chapter into a smaller story sandbox that relies more on character moments than big action set pieces. It works both as a throwback to the meeker charms of the original film, as well as a demo of how animated feature storytelling for children needn’t exist just to distract them with colours, but to engage them with nourishing stories.
This is another film best enjoyed when you know nothing about the story elements. All you need to know is that this is Woody’s (Tom Hanks) film, as he deals with memories of his old friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and the aftermath of being entrusted to a new kid, who may prefer some other toys over him. If you thought the finale of part three had a universal closure to the Toy Story universe, part four, with its vibrant adventure set around an antique shop, will surprise by showing you the one resolution thread that you missed even though it was in plain sight. It is also the first Pixar film to not have a short attached to it, which works in its favor because the opening scene sets the perfect mood for the emotions director Josh Cooley wants to wrangle out of you.
Pixar’s hallmark has always been their ability to find the perfect balance between engaging both children and adults. Toy Story 4 is yet another masterclass. There are a half a dozen side-splitting moments of laughter, mainly thanks to the antics of the new characters like Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) and the motorcycle champ Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), while the dynamic between Bo Peep and Woody draws parallels between Woody and the ‘villain’ of the film, who in turn has parallels between Woody and his original kid. Themes are juxtaposed, actions have motives, and payoffs are sweet, all of which makes for nuanced, layered storytelling within a decidedly simple looking visual and narrative architecture.
The entire film is constructed around the final 10 minutes whose poetry and melancholic beauty is just overwhelming. In most films, such a moment is achieved with bleak atmospheres, but in Toy Story 4, it is peaceful. You let the moment break you, take you back to where it all began, and comfort you with the fact that it is all over and it is okay to let go. It is touching, emotionally satisfying filmmaking, and a very elegant goodbye to a cinematic universe that has been a big part of 25 years of our lives.
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