Toy Story 4 is everything you would expect from a Pixar movie, and furthermore, everything you would expect from a Toy Story one. There are laughs, tears and incredibly entertaining set pieces. However, it’s not Pixar’s tightest project to date, and as a result, not one of its best.
Though it does have plenty of memorable characters, old and new, most notably the hilarious Forky voiced by Tony Hale, there is an unwavering feeling throughout the film that it is trying to justify its own existence; slightly ironic for a film dealing with existential crisis themes.
Where the original Toy Story trilogy felt concise, with character arcs being tied together neatly in the third installment, at times Toy Story 4 feels like it's undoing all of that good work in order to bring the franchise back to life, and to do so exploring ideas and questions that it doesn't quite know how to answer.
That’s not to say that Toy Story 4 is not a great standalone film, because it is. It just does not feel intrinsically linked to the other films or the original story in ways that could have made it a whole lot more relevant. Nor does it ever feel as carefully crafted as those classics. As a result, there are some far better movies on Pixar's slate...
Coco was Pixar’s return to blistering form following a string of sub-par entries in The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory and Cars 3. It also once again proved that there was no subject that the animation studio considered off-limits, this time tackling the taboo subject of death, with tact and surprisingly a lot of warmth.
Where Toy Story 4's plotting and story is at times meandering and lacks the razor sharp focus of previous installments, Coco's finely tuned narrative guides the viewer effortlessly through one of the most intricately detailed worlds that the studio has ever crafted.
Pixar also ensures that the themes of death, grief and moving on never come across preachy, melancholic or downright depressing. Instead the film’s tone is balanced to perfection with the tear-jerking moments weaving through an upbeat sense of adventure and awe without ever feeling awkward or jarring. Unfortunately the more emotional moments in Toy Story 4 never feel quite so organic.