Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Back to the Toy Box

Toy Story 4
Director: Josh Cooley
Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Tony Hale
Released: June 21, 2019
Viewed in theaters: Juen 24, 2019

Is Toy Story 4 a good movie? Yes, of course it is. Was it necessary? A lot of people thought Toy Story 3 had a perfect ending (myself included) and while I don't think having a fourth movie was necessary (the world would have survived without a fourth Toy Story movie; however the world would not survive without Toy Story because Toy Story not existing equals Pixar not existing and how could anyone live in a world where Pixar doesn't exist!), I didn't mind because I love going on a new adventure with these characters we've met from the first three movies. Just because Andy's story is done doesn't mean that there aren't still more stories for the toys to tell. You could really make a whole bunch of these movies and as long as there's a good script and it makes sense for this universe, I'm okay with that. In other words, you could say this series could go to infinity...and beyond! Is Toy Story 4 the best of the series? To me, no. I definitely like the first and third movies better. Of course I still love the second movie and this movie was a joy to watch so even though they're on the "bottom" doesn't mean I dislike them; they're all really amazing.

I think the most surprising thing about this movie was that it didn't make me cry. Yes, I could feel the tears almost well up (especially during one scene), but I never flat-out bawled like I did during Toy Story 3. (To be fair, I didn't cry during the first two movies, but I did get a little choked up during the "When She Loved Me" scene from Toy Story 2). I was all prepared for this big emotional scene, but it never came for me. I had mixed emotions about the ending, but I'll get to that later. I did laugh a lot during this movie; there were so many great and funny scenes, mostly thanks to new characters we are introduced to and we are introduced to a LOT of new characters. So much so that many of the characters we loved from the first three movies were reduced to ancillary characters. So if you're a big fan of Slinky Dog or Hamm or Mr. Potato Head or Rex or even Jessie and Bullseye, don't go in excepting too much from them. Even Buzz Lightyear doesn't have too much screen time (more than the characters I named) because this is Woody's movie and adventure. There is a running joke where Buzz thinks his voice box buttons are his inner thoughts so he pushes the buttons for guidance of what to do in a situation.

The new characters we are introduced to include:
-Ducky and Bunny, stuffed animals of, you guessed it, a duck and a bunny. They are carnival toys waiting to be won by patrons who play the carnival game at the booth they're at. They are voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who, I imagine, improvised most of their lines so they get a lot of funny moments. They're a bit sadistic because their plan for everything is to attack humans by jumping into their faces, calling it a "plush rush". They come across another stuffed animal that has been torn apart by a cat and are both horrified to see what they look like on the inside and one of them comments, "So much fluff!"

-Duke Caboom, a Canadian Evel Knivel-inspired action figure (voiced by Keanu Reeves) who has a sad (albeit funny) backstory where he was chucked by his "kid", Rejean (I'm taking a wild guess that he's from Quebec!), after Duke didn't perform the cool stunts exactly like how they show it on the commercial. I guess they forgot to add the text "Toy does not actually fly" on the bottom of the screen like they did for the Buzz Lightyear commercial. This made me laugh because it's so true! How many times have we ever watched a commercial with a toy that does all these really cool things, but then when you actually play with it, they can't actually jump through fiery hoops like Duke Caboom is shown in the commercial. This makes Rejean chuck poor Duke Caboom, the "Canuck with all the Luck" to the side. Duke's catchphrase is, "I Can-ada!" I felt like he was the equivalent to Toy Story 3's Ken.

-Giggles McDimples is a tiny toy clearly modeled after Polly Pocket and when we meet her, she's in one of those plastic shells. I thought her introduction was really funny. She takes a liking to Woody since he's a sheriff and she's Officer McDimples who runs Pet Patrol. There's a part in the movie when the toys are being terrorized by a cat and being that she is so small, she gets swallowed by it! I was much more concerned for the cat, not going to lie! Of course the cat eventually gags it up and Giggles McDimples is covered in cat phlegm. Lovely. I will say, if you compare the cat in this movie to Sid's dog, Scud, in the first Toy Story, wow! What a difference! I mean, it has been 24 years they've had to prefect this technology!

-Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) is a pull-string doll from the 1950s who lives in an antique store and just wants a kid to love and play with her. She is presented as the villain as she is trying to steal Woody's voice box since hers is broken and she thinks the only way for a child to love her is if she isn't broken. She has these creepy ventriloquist dummy minions who don't talk; they just do her bidding. I will discuss more about her in my spoiler section, but I just wanted to say that I only remember ever having one pull-string toy, ever, in my life, and that was a stuffed Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks. I can't even remember any of the things he said.

-Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) is a plastic spork with pipe cleaner arms and a face created by Bonnie, the young girl Andy gave his toys to in the last movie (you know, the part that made everybody shed tears). He quickly becomes her favorite "toy", but Forky, not knowing why he exists (don't we all have those existential crises?), keeps wanting to throw himself in the trash because he believes that's where he belongs, but Woody, knowing how much Forky means to Bonnie, keeps fishing him out of the trash. Bonnie's attachment to Forky was a little weird. I understand she made him during kindergarten orientation and was quite proud of him, but she sleeps with him like she's cuddling a stuffed animal (how can you cuddle a plastic spork??) and when she can't find him during a family road trip with her parents, her dad tells her she can make another one and she freaks out. If I were her parents, I would be kicking myself for ever buying her toys since she she's so content with a plastic spork! It reminds me when I buy a cat toy for my cat, but I see him playing with my hair ties or the Starbucks green stopper thingy way more than when he plays with his toys! (By the way, I wonder if pet toys are sentient in this world? I hope not because that would be a little terrifying for them to be chewed by a dog or chased by a cat!) At least they didn't have to pay for the toys she received from Andy. Bonnie brings all of her toys on the road trip and I laughed when I heard a podcast review of someone complaining of how unrealistic that was because whenever my nieces visit my parents they bring a lot of their toys! Of course I know they did that in the movie so all the toys we've all come to know and love from the first movie (and Bonnie's toys we met in the third movie) will be involved in the plot, even if it's just a few minutes of screen time. Even Woody is brought along even though he's been reduced to mostly staying in the closet with the other toys that don't get much playtime. Poor Woody; literally every toy that belonged to Andy gets playtime (even the little green aliens! Even Hamm who is't really a toy because's he actually a piggy bank!) and he is left in the closet collecting dust bunnies. Not cool, Bonnie. The family is driving an RV and they make a lot of stops along the way and each time Woody has to keep Forky from jumping in the trash or running away. At one point, Forky just flings himself out of the window of the moving vehicle (very dark for a children's movie!) and Woody jumps after him, promising the others he'll return with Forky. Well, that doesn't exactly happen as they have a lot of obstacles to get through!

-Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) is not a new character since she was in the first two movies, but she is an important part of this movie. We see a flashback of her getting packed away to be sent to a new home once Molly has gotten too old for her. Woody is set on rescuing her, but she tells him it's time to move on, but suggests that he could hop in the box with her since "kids lose their toys all the time" (I never lost any of my toys, thankyouverymuch!), but Woody is too loyal to Andy to do that. We see Molly's room and she had these little doll figurines which I totally had! They were these ceramic figures that you received each year for your birthday with the corresponding age attached to them. They went up to age 16, but I think I only got them until I was 12. I had the blonde figurines, but when my family moved, a few of them broke and we replaced them with the brunette ones because I guess we couldn't find the blonde ones. I mean, it didn't really matter since I am neither blonde nor brunette! But I had to laugh when I saw those because it brought back memories and I probably otherwise would have completely forgotten about them. They are sentient in this movie, so does that mean Molly played with them? We know Bo is sentient because Andy used her as a damsel in distress for Woody to rescue. I never played with those figurines because they were fragile! They just stayed on my shelf with my other ceramic figurines.

Woody meets up with Bo again after all these years. She has shed her dress and bonnet for a more utilitarian outfit. There is a funny moment when Woody can't remember the name of her three sheep (who are all connected together) and as far as I know, we've never actually known the names of her sheep. They are Billy, Goat, and Gruff and yes, they are very cute for being ceramic sheep. By the way, they're part of a lamp set, right? I have never heard of a lamp set where you can move the pieces; I would think that they would be glued to the actual lamp, but maybe they are able to remove themselves? I've only had lamps that were just lamps; so I don't know how that would work, I also don't know why I'm trying to work out the logistics of how that would work. Bo lives in an antique shop, but often sneaks out to a carnival nearby, hence why we have antique toys and carnival toys convening together. There is a fun callback to the first movie when Bo greets Buzz with, "My old moving buddy!" Which while it's true that Bo mention she's found her moving buddy once they all meet Buzz, did she not remember that Buzz was next door almost being blown to smithereens by Sid while all the toys were being shipped to the new house in the moving van? So technically they were never moving buddies. Just a small little nitpick!

For the rest of this review, I'm going to get into spoilers so you have been warned! SPOILERS START NOW! DON'T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED!! SERIOUSLY, I AM WARNING YOU! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 

I was surprised by how quickly the Forky storyline was concluded. After Woody tells him how important he is to Bonnie and that he's an important part to her childhood memories, Forky is all about getting back to her, but by that time Woody has been distracted by seeing Bo's lamp in the antique shop and that's when the movie goes in that direction. Of course Forky is still an integral to the plot of the movie, but he no longer wants to throw himself in the trash.

Like Stinky Pete and Lotso, Gabby Gabby is considered the villain of this movie, however while they start out as characters you think can be trusted only to realize they're not so nice, the doll starts out very aggressive, clearly wanting Woody's voice box, but turns into a sympathetic character. She is hoping to be "adopted" by Harmony, the granddaughter of the woman who owns the antique shop and she believes the only way Harmony will love her is if her voice box works. I thought Harmony was going to want her even if her voice box didn't work, but no, the movie goes another way. Gabby gets a new voice box (Woody gives her his in exchange for Forky as she had the spork held hostage) and pulls her string to make Harmony notice her. At first, the girl seems smitten with the doll, but then she's like, "Nah" and tosses her back into the crate. I literally "ahh"-ed during this moment; I felt bad for Gabby Gabby! At first I was mad with Harmony, but you know what? I can't really blame the girl. What child from this decade would want a doll from the '50s? They all have this really creepy look to them. Maybe if Gabby was an American Girl Doll she might have had more luck...

However, Gabby will get her happy ending when she is picked up by a lost girl at the carnival who turns to the doll for comfort. This is the scene where I came closest to crying. Of course who knows how long Gabby is forgotten about once the girl gets home and isn't upset about being lost anymore and starts playing on her iPhone?

I did not cry at the end which was surprising to me because I was expecting this super emotional scene. I was more bemused than upset. I guess I should have seen the ending coming because all through the movie Bo is telling Woody how great it is to be on her own and how she's independent and doesn't need a kid to play with her. She's much more satisfied helping other toys finding kids of their own. So when Woody decides to stay with Bo at the end instead of going back with his other toy friends, I wasn't really that shocked. I was just confused because through all the previous movies, Woody has been telling his friends how important it is to stay together and that a toy's job is to make their kid happy. Woody has always been about every toy staying together, but now he's going to leave them to be with Bo Peep. Eh, I wasn't crazy about that. I know Bo is supposed to be his "girlfriend", but they only have a few flirty scenes in the first two movies. Woody has a much more stronger relationship with Buzz, with Slinky Dog, with Jessie, just to name a few. Also, the notion that toys can have romantic relationships is a little weird. I'm okay with one between Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head or Barbie and Ken because at least those are already pairs. There's a scene at the end where it looks like Woody and Bo are about to kiss and I'm thinking, Please don't. I'm okay with Andy making them kiss by tapping their faces together because it's meant to be funny and it's a kid having the damsel kiss the hero her after she is rescued. Luckily they do not kiss! I wasn't too upset that Woody was leaving his toy friends (probably why I didn't cry) because he wasn't getting much playtime with Bonnie anymore, so might as well join a traveling carnival with Bo and his new toy friends so he's not sitting in a closet all day. I feel the most bad for Bullseye because he is like a loyal dog to Woody. Yes, I know he still has Jessie, but that has to be hard on the poor little horse! Hmm, does this mean that Bo is the Yoko Ono of the Toy Story franchise?

You know what I would love to see? A prequel! How did Andy obtain Woody? It is believed he belonged to Andy's father who we don't really know anything about, so a prequel could answer a lot of these questions. You're welcome for the idea, Pixar!

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