'Toy Story 4' is a hilarious and sweet sequel, but it's not better than the original trilogy

Disney/PixarWoody learns that there’s a larger world outside a kid’s room in ‘Toy Story 4.’

  • Warning: There are mild spoilers below for “Toy Story 4.”
  • Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Annie Potts reprise their roles as Woody, Buzz, and Bo Peep in the Disney and Pixar sequel out Friday.
  • It’s very funny, especially with the addition of new characters like Forky, Ducky, Bunny, and Keanu Reeves’ standout character, Duke Caboom.
  • Still, it’s not better than the original trilogy. Fans may wish less time was spent with some of the new characters to have a larger focus on the original gang.
  • You may tear up by the end, but you won’t be left sobbing like many people were during 2010’s “Toy Story 3.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

“Toy Story 4” isn’t better than the original trilogy, but it is undeniably funny, sweet, and it will probably make you reach for a tissue or two by the film’s very end.

The sequel picks up not too long after “Toy Story 3” with Andy’s toys in the hands of their new owner, Bonnie. The little girl is off to kindergarten orientation and builds a new friend, Forky, who quickly becomes her favourite toy.

Unfortunately for Bonnie, Forky is having a tough time accepting he’s a toy and not trash, to humorous effect. As Woody helps him transition as Bonnie’s new favourite toy on a road trip, the cowboy finds himself in his own existential crisis as a toy searching for meaning. After years as Andy’s favourite toy, he’s now been relegated to a closet, where he’s been collecting dust bunnies.

That conflict deepens when he’s reunited with his long lost love, Bo Peep, who was given away years ago. Woody finds himself pitted against his loyalties to an owner who doesn’t play with him anymore and a love he once let get away. At its core, “Toy Story 4” is about finding yourself and your purpose in the world when you think you don’t have one anymore.

What you should know: ‘Toy Story 4’ has been in the works since 2014. In that time, director John Lasseter left Disney and was replaced by first-time director Josh Cooley in 2017.

Disney john lasseterDeborah Coleman / PixarJohn Lasseter (standing to the right) is seen at an early ‘Toy Story 4’ meeting in a photo released by Disney.

“Toy Story 4” was first announced in 2014 with an initial 2017 release date. Since then, it was pushed back twice. In 2015, former Disney Animation and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter said the movie would be an emotional love story about Woody and Bo Peep that was inspired by his wife.

Fans were excited because Lasseter, who directed the first “Toy Story,” was set to return to direct, but he stepped down from the role in 2017. At the time, he told i09 he simply had too much on his plate. Lasseter announced at D23 Expo that Josh Cooley, who worked on the Pixar short, “Riley’s First Date,” was taking over as director.

Lasseter, meanwhile, left Disney in June 2018. He took a six-month sabbatical after reports alleged Lasseter behaved inappropriately with Disney employees.


Read more: Internal drama at Pixar may explain why ‘Toy Story 4’ has been delayed twice

Do I need to see the first three before this one? No.

Toy Story 4Disney Pixar / YouTubeThe film catches you up to speed with what you need to know at the film’s very start.

“Toy Story 4” does a good job of summing up what you need to know at the film’s very start in a flashback scene that may make you a little nostalgic.

It doesn’t hurt to rewatch the first movie if you have time. There are some thematic musical nods and dialogue throwbacks to the original 1995 film.

What’s hot: The animation, the continuation of Bo Peep’s story, Forky, and the addition of new characters from Keanu Reeves, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele

Toy story 4 bo peepDisney/PixarDon’t mess with Bo Peep. She’s been on her own for years with her sheep.

What happened to Bo Peep? The character was never seen again after “Toy Story 2” and fans finally get a pretty satisfying answer as she’s reunited with Woody and the gang. It’s really cool for both new and longtime fans to see how she’s been surviving on her own as a “lost toy” for years. Don’t feel bad. She has adapted pretty well with her sheep, a cape, and by using her shepherd’s crook as a staff to easily navigate the world and jump to high places. She kind of reminds us of Rey from “Star Wars” in the way she uses it against enemies as a weapon, but also as a handy tool. Bo will be a favourite among young girls.

Other than Bo, Forky is going to be the clear favourite of this movie. The cute little spork is one of the funniest characters in the film. Refusing to accept the fact that he’s a toy, he continuously yells out that he’s “trash” and tries jumping back into the garbage where he’s more comfortable. The sheriff tirelessly makes it his job to protect Bonnie’s new favourite toy and convince Forky that he’s more than just something made from scraps. His relationship with Woody is one of the film’s most endearing.

Toy story 4 woody forkyDisney/PixarYou’re going to want a Forky of your very own after this movie. For what it’s worth, they’re currently available at McDonald’s.

The real standout of “Toy Story 4” is the animation. This is a gorgeous movie to look at. From the moment the film begins, Pixar shows off realistic rain, mud, and leaves.

The detail in the toys is impressive as well. There are signs of wear and tear in Buzz and Woody after years of being played with. There are scratches built into Woody’s cowboy hat and the Lightyear sticker on Buzz is worn. If you’ve ever had one of those dolls growing up, you know that’s what happens to them.

Even Woody’s owner, Andy, has been given the updated Pixar treatment after his first movie appearance in 1995. He looks unrecognizable.

Rv toy story 4 nature shotDisney/PixarThe grass, rocks, sand and more look incredibly realistic in every shot. Fans who have played ‘Kingdom Hearts 3’ will be in for a treat. Andy’s home in ‘Toy Story 4’ has the same layout and design that you’re able to enter in the January release.

Between “John Wick: Chapter 3” and a must-watch appearance in the Netflix film “Always Be My Maybe,” Keanu Reeves is the man of the summer. Once again, he steals every scene in which he appears in “Toy Story 4” as the pint-sized and very energetic Duke Caboom.

If you haven’t watched the video of Reeves voicing the Canadian stuntman, you’re missing out. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Reeves came up with the character’s signature moves by getting up on a table at Pixar and striking some poses. What a guy.

Toy story 4 duke caboomDisney/PixarWoody and Bo need help from Duke Caboom in ‘Toy Story 4.’

More than Forky and Duke, Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, respectively) get the film’s biggest laughs. That’s mostly because of one running gag throughout the film. They’re two prizes who have been at a carnival game for far too long who Buzz helps break free.

If you’ve watched any of the trailers, you’ve seen one of their funny moments where Ducky tells Buzz, “To Infinity and my foot!” as he tries to kick him.

Toy story 4 ducky bunnyDisney/PixarBuzz meets Ducky and Bunny at a carnival game and he can’t shake them afterward.

Keep your eyes peeled for a lot of Easter eggs and references to the other “Toy Story” and Pixar movies. There are many to be found here.

What’s not: The lack of some of the original cast in a majority of the movie and some creepy ventriloquist dolls which look ripped straight out of R.L. Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’

Toy story 4 toysDisney/PixarThis RV is where the majority of the characters stay for the movie. Bummer.

Many people have been waiting nine years to see their favourite characters – Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, RC, Jessie, and more – reunited. We have some bad news for you.

Other than an extended flashback sequence at the film’s start and a few moments in an RV, don’t expect to see much of the entire gang of Andy’s old toys together. You get to see even less of some of Bonnie’s standout toys like Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), and Buttercup (Jeff Garlin).

There are so many new characters introduced in “Toy Story 4” (there are at least eight without counting the return of Bo Peep and her flock) that old favourites take a backseat. One of the newest additions, four creepy ventriloquist dummies, look ripped from the pages of R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” and are awfully reminiscent of his Slappy doll. They’re also the scariest addition to the franchise. (Yes, scarier than Sid’s Babyface from the first film.) A few kids screamed out at our showing when one of them appeared for the first time.

Toy story 4 gabby gabby dummyDisney/PixarWoody gets mixed up with some scary-looking dolls who may give you the creeps. Gabby Gabby is the doll in the carriage.

While Bunny and Ducky are fine additions, fans of Jessie and especially Bullseye may be disappointed by how little they appear in the movie. “Toy Story 4” went through a lot of writers eight to be exact. It makes you wonder if there was more of the original gang in an earlier version of the movie.

Andy’s and Bonnie’s toys are all given screen time in an important (and silly) scene later on (think the odd third act of Finding Dory). But the moment feels a bit shoehorned to give fans a scene with more of the characters together.

Another reason we may see so little of some of the original cast is because Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head, died in 2017. According to IMDB, archive sound was used for his voice in the film. Disney and Pixar give him a little tribute at the film’s very end.

Thankfully, there is plenty of Buzz Lightyear, but his character isn’t given much to do. He becomes caught up in finding his inner voice for the entire movie after he misinterprets something from Woody. After three movies, “Toy Story 4” makes Buzz look like a somewhat dim space ranger.

Toy story 4 buzz lightyearDisney/PixarBuzz Lightyear tries to find his inner voice in ‘Toy Story 4,’ which he believes has something to do with his actual electronic voice.

But there’s no time in this two-hour movie for any other character to do much more than add comic relief. The film is really centered around Woody and his journey. Aside from the cowboy and Forky, no other characters experience real character growth. Everyone else is kind of just there for the big old reunion party of a sequel.

Toy story 4 forky woodyDisney/PixarWoody convinces Forky why he’s more than just trash to Bonnie.

Perhaps the strangest story choice is that “Toy Story 4” decides to separate the dynamic team of Woody and Buzz Lightyear for much of the film. In a moment where Woody may need Buzz most, he abandons him (after feeling a bit abandoned himself).

It’s a weird choice splitting up the two for a long period of time in the film. It’s stranger still when they don’t have each other’s backs. It seems to go against everything fans know about the characters. The onscreen banter of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks has been one of the best things about this franchise.

Toy story woody buzzDisney/PixarThis scene from a teaser isn’t in the movie.

Instead, Buzz is replaced with Forky as Woody’s new best bud for most of the film. And when it’s not Forky he’s worried about, it’s Bo Peep.

Overall: It’s an unnecessary sequel that’s still funny and filled with a lot of heart that any fan should enjoy

Toy story 4 woody boDisney/PixarWoody and Bo get the story they never received in the original trilogy that fans may have been wondering about for years.

No one is going to leave “Toy Story 4” upset. It’s is an undeniably good movie, but no one needed it.

It’s filled with some things we’ve seen before and relies on callbacks for its emotional punches. It also focuses on too many new characters rather than building upon existing relationships that fans grew up watching.

Fans will be happy to finally learn what happened to Bo Peep. But hours after seeing the movie, they may wish they had more time with Rex, Slinky Dog, and the Potato Heads.

Grade: B

“Toy Story 4” is in theatres Friday. You can watch a trailer below.

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