I’ve never shied away from sharing my unpopular opinions, so I figured I might as well go down swinging 😉 Considering this was a massive box office and critical success (and it just won an Oscar for whatever that’s worth) this could very well be my most controversial opinion. And I know a lot of people might think I’ve simply got my old-lady-monkey-knickers in a twist, because it wasn’t the same as the old movies in the franchise and it didn’t live up to my nostalgia-fuelled perceptions of what makes a good Toy Story movie annnnd… you may very well be right. BUT here’s the thing: I don’t just think this failed as a Toy Story movie- I think this failed as a film in general. Which is why you should beware the upcoming *harsh thoughts* and be warned for *scary spoilers lie ahead!*
A lot of you might be wondering why I bothered to watch this in the first place (and, believe me, I’m asking myself the same question now). Truth is, I wasn’t sure I would, but was persuaded- both by an incredibly enthusiastic sister and the fact that Toy Story 3 had exceeded expectations. That had miraculously turned out to be a marvellous movie. For me, it was the perfect way to end the franchise and a beautiful finale for our favourite toys. The message of toys moving on to make more children happy was a very positive one (and doubtless helped me be less of a hoarder 😉). When I heard about Toy Story 4, I wasn’t sure where they could go with it, but the question of “what makes toys sentient” seemed interesting enough…
Only that’s not what the movie was about. Despite all the marketing, the spork supposedly-at-the-centre of the narrative is merely a gimmick. Instead of an interesting next-chapter-of-the-story, what I got was a formless mess of a movie and a miserable-as-hell tale of existential despair. I kid you not. Because this is the story of how Woody loses his sense of purpose, gets really depressed about it, fails to turn things around, then goes off to live a life of meaningless “pleasure” (if you can call lying in wait for random children to toss you around in a park pleasure). If this mirrors the idea of kids going off to college and leaving their parents behind, then the message is… do nothing with your retirement, just drink mimosas till you inevitably die. It feels less like Woody is going off into the sunset and more like he’s being shoved into an old age home.
Weirdly enough, the villains get a happier ending. That’s right- the toy who does the equivalent of ripping out Woody’s kidney gets a sort-of-redemption arc (although I hesitate to call it that, since it’s more of a “you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from and forgive me” arc). I’m sorry, this felt unsatisfying, cos the writers didn’t do the work to justify her redemption. Rewarding the villains for their villainy just felt all wrong.
Now, as many will be keen to point out, there was always darkness in Toy Story movies. Yet this was different- because where there had always been exploration of insecurities and change and hardship, there was always a sense of hope at the end. Toy Story 3 is the best exemplar of this: it left us with the notion that your purpose doesn’t end with a new chapter. That you can find another kid and go on. Here, we get the argument that your life’s goal was meaningless all along, you weren’t all that important to begin with and you may as well just live for yourself until you eventually fall apart.
To me, that goes counter to all the messaging of the franchise. So much of those was about friendship and sacrifice and living for others. Toy Story 4 takes the meaning and wonder and positivity of the originals and spits it out. I know I’m in the minority- nonetheless that leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth.
And can we just take a moment to talk about how crap the characters are? It’s worse than that most of them get barely any lines and feel sort of neutered- they’re actively unlikeable at times. Bizarrely, the toys main goal seems to be to punish innocent humans and get the dad sent to jail?! Okay- where did that come from? I think they were trying to be funny? I guess?
Don’t worry though, the spork gets a character arc *she says sarcastically*. I mean, if you can call being suicidal and then being cured by a good talking to a character arc. Again, this is played for laughs- it’s not exactly deep. Especially since Woody doesn’t follow his advice.
On the subject of Sporky I’ve also got to say a big, fat WHAT THE HELL?!?! Cos what is wrong with those parents?!?! Why would they encourage her to hug a literal piece of trash at night?!?! It came out of the rubbish and is dirty and disgusting. When the kid falls asleep, you take it away and quietly put it back in the bin!! I’m genuinely concerned about how sanitary the people who made this movie are.
Also, just going to take a moment to get on the Bonnie-hate-train, cos she’s the worst. She was given the most amazing toy in the world, asked to take special care of it… annnnd immediately becomes infatuated with a spork. Ugh.
I know I’m focusing too much on the human characters- but that’s because this movie gives them too big of a role. Unlike all the other movies, which were so focused on the toy’s arcs, most of them don’t really do all that much. Buzz is an idiot; Bo has had a personality transplant; Woody is depressed and doggedly doing illogical things in order for the plot to work; and the rest of the gang may as well not be there.
Personally, there wasn’t a single thing I enjoyed about this movie. I thought the messages were awful and it was yet another Disney cashgrab. I wish they would stop turning (mostly children’s) franchises into nihilistic, humourless “comedies”, but here we are, I guess. Disney just can’t seem to stop raping and pillaging their old movies. I’m gonna try and do my best to turn a blind eye… until the next time I inevitably fall for this trick 😉
Rating: banana peel!
(which shouldn’t offend the creators, since they think trash is good!)
Dare I ask, have you seen it? Do you think I’m being fair or too harsh? Let me know in the comments!