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137. Toy Story 4 – This Just In (#116)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Josh Cooley’s Toy Story 4.

At time of recording, it was ranked 116th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 is a lovely grace note.

Understandably, the largest tension that exists within Toy Story 4 is the question of whether the movie is “necessary”, as much as crowd-pleasing feel-good film must be “necessary.” Rather, it’s the question of whether its presence enhances or diminishes the immediately previous film in the franchise. Toy Story 3 was in many ways a pitch-perfect franchise closer, the perfect place in which to leave these characters and this world. It was bittersweet and deeply moving, striking a perfect balance between providing closure and suggesting that the adventure continues.

The real Toy Story is the toys we made along the way.

This creates an interesting challenge for Toy Story 4. Because Toy Story 3 provided such a fitting ending, it is not enough for Toy Story 4 to simple be amusing or engaging. To quote another popular Tom Hanks vehicle from the nineties, it has to “earn this.” To a certain extent, Toy Story 4 exists in conversation with Toy Story 3, and with the notable handicap of being unable to play many of the same emotional beats as strongly. “This is the epic last go-round” is a card that is difficult to play in two consecutive movies. So, quite apart from how funny and how thrilling and how clever Toy Story 4 is, it faces an uphill struggle.

It is to the credit of Toy Story 4 that it justifies itself so effectively. A lot of this is down to canny structuring; Toy Story 4 is much less of an ensemble piece than any of the two previous films in the series, focused very tightly on Woody as its focal character. This provides a nice change of pace, even compared to the fun “toys mount a rescue” template of Toy Story 2. To a certain extent, Toy Story 4 feels – in terms of tone, plot and character – much closer to the original Toy Story than any of the intermediate films in the franchise. This allows it a certain freshness and lightness on its feet.

A forkin’ delight.

However, the smartest thing about Toy Story 4 is that it understands its position. Toy Story 4 is shrewd enough to understand that it can neither ignore nor repeat Toy Story 3. Indeed, Toy Story 4 is cognisant of the fact that it must be an ending of a sort, but also a different kind of ending than Toy Story 3. The film has to both justify and distinguish itself, fitting with what came before while finding something unique to say. This is a delicate balance to strike, and it is to the credit of Toy Story 4 that it succeeds as thoroughly as it does.

Toy Story 4 exists in the shadow of Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, but most animated films do; they are both among the very best films that Pixar has produced, making them among the very best animated films ever produced. Toy Story 4 works well as an epilogue or a coda. It’s charming, smart, funny and very moving in the places where it needs to be. Toy Story 3 existed at the full stop at the end of the story, but Toy Story 4 draws a line under it.

Home on the range.

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Toying With Ideas: Is Woody a Gift from Andy’s Father?

This came up in conversation with the better half about a week ago while we were discussing Toy Story 3. I happened to mention a theory I’d heard some time back that the reason that Woody was so important to Andy (as opposed to say, Rex or Mr. Potato Head) was because Woody had been handed down to the child from his father – giving him extra emotional weight since the father figure is notably absent from all three films (implying he and Andy’s mom could be divorced, he could be dead, or they simply never lived together – although he could just as easily have happened to be absent for every moment we were watching). I quite liked the idea that Woody had been around more than a generation, although my better half was somewhat less fond of the idea. Still, I think it’s a really interesting way to look at the film.

Could I be any father from the truth?

Note: This post contains spoilers for the end of Toy Story 3. But you should have seen it already. If you haven’t, go see it, then come back and share your thoughts.

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Non-Review Review: Toy Story 3

At this stage of my life, I’ve figured out that Pixar are like an old friend you see but once a year. You almost take them for granted until you meet up with them – and they’re filled with amazing stories of adventure, fun and whimsy. Somehow they always have the most exciting tales and wonderful way of spinning their yarns, but they’re also strangely intimate – perhaps it’s because you feel almost like you’ve grown up with them. And then they make you cry. Possibly like a little girl. Who am I to judge, my eyes are still red. And you leave knowing that you’ll see them again around about the same time next year, to share more wonderful fantasies and stories – but you can never hear the same story twice.

Yes Ken Do...

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Non-Review Review: Toy Story (3D)

I caught a screening of Toy Story 3D in Cineworld last night. It was amazing. Not for the new 3D effects – which were, admittedly graceful and understated rather than garish and intrusive – but just for the joy of seeing two old friends back on the big screen, where they belong. The rerelease of the movie has garnered a lot of discussion about what the best Pixar film is, with many suggesting that this original film may take the crown. While Toy Story isn’t the best of that studio’s filmography, it remains a highlight. To infinity and beyond, indeed!

Toyz in da Hood...

Toyz in da Hood...

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