Triumphant despite a perfect ending to a would-be trilogy in 2010, “Toy Story 4” consistently entertains.
At first, the idea of a fourth “Toy Story” film seemed absurd. With one of the most memorable endings in film history wrapping up the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, this film had the job of surprising skeptical viewers. A safe and episodic adventure for the beloved characters would painfully read as a forced cash-grab.
“Toy Story 4” contains an honest heart. The characters actually developed in a satisfying and sensible way, leaving the audience misty-eyed.
From the beginning of the film, there’s a clear theme and purpose in the plot. No longer being Andy’s favorite toy, Woody is having a hard time adjusting to neglect from his new owner, Bonnie. Bonnie creates Forky out of trash and glue, bringing some joy to her rough first day of school. Woody, wanting to see Bonnie happy, does everything he can to help Forky adjust to his new life as a toy. A road trip leads to the toys interacting with new settings and characters, all of which help “Toy Story 4” stand out as a memorable entry in the series.
The animation in “Toy Story 4” is photo-realistic when it wants to be, leaving room for the signature Pixar style. The directorial craft in displaying environments and action scenes feels as good as there's been in a “Toy Story” film. A light horror aspect has been present in past “Toy Story” films, such as Sid’s room from the first film, this dark turn is done in “Toy Story 4” as well and is carried out fantastically.
The further fleshing out of characters and relationships in “Toy Story 4” makes a strong argument for the existence of the film. While some lovable characters from the series' past unfortunately feel cast aside in “Toy Story 4,” the new characters introduced all shine. Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom and Forky is a heartwarming, unique addition.
The humor is done surprisingly dry, inducing many unexpected laughs at nearly every turn.
While some stretches of plot in “Toy Story 4” have the film feeling more like an episodic adventure in the series, every bit culminates in the end to create an earned and memorable ending.
Even if a continuation is likely for the “Toy Story” franchise, a “Toy Story 5” wouldn’t elicit the same concerns coming with “Toy Story 4.” Pixar has proven capable of creating a slightly unnecessary sequel that can match the quality of all the films in its series.