This is a spoiler-free review. Thus, comments are kept vague enough to give an impression without divulging any plot details.
Toy Story long ago cemented itself as Pixar’s greatest powerhouse, a moving saga whose immortal characters dealt with the problems of mortality, all under the guise of toys and lightheartedness.
Where other Toy Story films succeed, the fourth and final installment soars. Woody’s character has never been so realized, with his goals an issues more nuanced than ever before. The arc he goes through over the course of the film forces him to both face reality and to come to peace with what haunts him most, and it’s a moving tale all the way through.
At the heart of the film is a message about love. It balances the topic from all angles, from dissecting romantic love and the complications therein, familial love and the love set in the deepest of friendships. It doesn’t forget the fans’ love for the characters either, delivering an ending as heartbreaking as it is fitting. The message of Toy Story 4 might be a tougher pill to swallow than films past due the finality of the film, but it is one that feels like a necessary conclusion to the characters’ journeys.
The film’s new characters mesh in just as well as the old ones, managing to bring in plenty of personalities the series has yet to see. They’re a refreshing addition to the franchise, and don’t take long to feel like they’ve belonged there the entire time. The old guard is treated with reverence, and the ending they receive is as beautifully fitting as any of Pixar’s films.
Pixar’s animation prowess takes another leap, with this being its most beautiful film by a wide margin. The characters are meticulously designed and more emotive than even Pixar’s most recent films have made seem possible, and environments are gorgeous and jaw-dropping.
Among all its accomplishments, Toy Story 4 is most incredible in its maturity. Its humor, its message and its characters are more nuanced than ever, and is better suited for all ages than any film before it. It is a film clearly intended for those who grew up watching the franchise, and caters often to its older audience.
Toy Story 4 is a must-see on all accounts, and will compete with Pixar’s bests for a long time.