Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Toy Story 4

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know how it works.  I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  It's just that simple.  This time out, I'm watching Toy Story 4.  This is originally in my notes at October 19, 2019.

The 2010s are going to be forever remembered as Pixar's decade of sequels.  Their output over the past ten years was just dominated by sequels to their earlier hits.  The decade started with Toy Story 3, so it seems quite appropriate that it ends with Toy Story 4

Like a lot of folks, I was originally disheartened when they announced that Toy Story 4 was in the works.  Toy Story 3 was just such a touching end to the saga, that I didn't really know what else they could do.  Then they said it was going to be about what happened to Bo Peep.  In Toy Story 3, one of the characters says, "Remember what happened to Bo!" and those animators flashed a look of pain and regret across Woody's face, before Woody composes himself and takes charge once again.  But I caught that look.  And it immediately made me think, "I want to see that story." 

And the film opens with that story.  We flash back nine years and see Bo Peep's final night.  Molly, Andy's sister and Bo Peep's kid, feels she's outgrown Bo Peep, and gives her away to another kid.  Woody is tempted to run off with Bo then and there, but then he hears Andy frantically looking for him, and decides to stay behind.  Cue "You've Got a Friend In Me" and the opening credits. 

When last we left our intrepid heroes at the end of Toy Story 3, Andy had given all his old toys to a neighbourhood girl named Bonnie before heading off to college.  Andy's toys are settling in with Bonnie's toys...well, except for Woody.  Bonnie's doll Dolly is the leader of Bonnie's toys.  Woody isn't Bonnie favourite toy and spends a lot of time in the back of the closet.  Woody is starting to feel...devoid of purpose.  With Bonnie's first day of kindergarten coming up, Woody decides to sneak along to keep an eye on her.  At school, Bonnie indulges her creativity and makes herself a new toy out of an old spork that she quickly names Forky.  And since Forky is a toy, he comes to life. 

Needless to say, this gives Forky an existential crisis.  He can't be a toy!  He's trash!  So he keeps trying to throw himself out.  Woody then decides this is his new purpose...he's Forky's protector.  A job made all the more difficult when the family goes on vacation. 

They arrive in a little town, and in the front window of an old antique shop, Woody finds a very familiar looking lamp.  But inside, he finds a very old talking doll, Gaby Gaby.  Since Woody and Gaby were made in the same year, and both are talking dolls, Gaby hatches her evil plan.  She wants Woody's voice box to fix herself, and finally be played with.  And she holds Forky hostage.  Luckily, Woody runs into Bo, who's now living a life of total freedom and independence as a lost toy.  With Bo's help, they're off to rescue Forky.

As always, we get a new array of memorable characters.  There's the aforementioned Forky, who's insistence that he's not a toy but is, in fact, trash, has made him the new poster boy for imposter syndrome.   Gaby Gaby, who turns out to be a surprisingly sympathetic villainess, and Ducky and Bunny, two plushies who were carnival prizes.  They kind of steal the show as comedy duo Key and Peele reunited to voice them.  And then there's Duke Kaboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves.  An action figure of Canada's greatest stuntman, he has his own existential crisis, as his kid threw him out when he learned he was incapable of doing the stunts he could do in his TV commercial. 

If I have one complaint about the film, is that it does get a little disjointed.  Forky is almost pushed aside as soon as he's taken hostage. 
We constantly cut back and forth between Woody and Bo's adventures, and then what's going on with the rest of Bonnie's toys, and then back to what's happening with Gaby Gaby and Forky.  It gets very episodic.  But then, it all comes together for a very emotional third act.

Yes, once again, it left me crying.  As I mentioned on Twitter as soon as I watched it, what happened here is they gave Woody the same character arc that they gave Captain America in Avengers: Endgame.  And that is, after a lifetime of service, it's OK to be a little selfish and do what your heart wants.  Yeah, spoiler warning, he runs away from Bonnie to join Bo Peep on the road.  And while Toy Story 3 was a good ending for the saga, Toy Story 4 was a good ending for Woody.

And holy crap, the animation is spectacular.  These characters have never looked so good.  When the first Toy Story came out back in '95, I remember the filmmakers saying that toys were perfect for animation, as the smooth surfaces of plastic looked good in CGI.  Well, 25 years of advancements in computer animation, and you can see scuff marks on these toys, and how such a toy would show wear and tear.  They're almost photo-realistic. 

At the end of the day, Toy Story 4 wound up being another worthy entry in the franchise.  But seriously, though.  Enough is enough.  They say this is Pixar's last sequel that's in the pipeline for a while, and I'm perfectly OK with that. 

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