It’s not unnecessary, with its expanded universe, deeper themes, and bevy of fun new (or just newly developed–badass Han Solo-esque Bo is great) characters, but it does feel a little detached from its three predecessors with no strong central plot thread or thematic thrust and the usual gang sadly neglected (which makes the emotional climax a little underwhelming). Slightly unmet expectations aside, it’s still very fun (the action set pieces are great), very funny, and very well-animated.
When Woody is stolen by a toy collector, Buzz and his friends vow to rescue him, but Woody finds the idea of immortality in a museum tempting. (IMDb)
The big city setting makes for one fun adventure after another (the toy store is a highlight), leading from a cleverly edited dual-narrative to a fantastic climax airport climax. The small-toy-in-big-world ingenuity, combined with the excellent banter (the voice-work is top notch once again) and even nods to classic films (“I am your father!”) makes every scene a delight. A touching mid-movie montage on the reality of toy-life and brilliant end-credits “bloopers” elevate this to yet another level.
With their daughter away, the Kranks decide to skip Christmas altogether until she decides to come home, causing an uproar when they have to celebrate the holiday at the last minute. (IMDb)
The story-writing is beyond sloppy (why is Blair all of a sudden coming home again?), there are obvious continuity goofs (Luther’s tan and Botox-ed eyebrows disappear quite quickly), and a lot of the acting is cringe-worthy, but Allen (playing his usual sarcastic guy’s guy) and Curtis (a Christmas-vest wearing and knitting mom’s mom) are both solid amidst the “crazy Christmas” comedy plot that has enough funny moments to make up for its cheap chintz (Santa makes quite an unnecessary appearance).
When a man inadvertantly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place. (IMDb)
Allen’s consistently hilarious adult-geared sarcasm throughout (“Dad, you’re flying!” “I’m used to it. I lived through the 60s!”) saves this film from being just another mediocre family Christmas flick by keeping it grounded and not suffocated by the typical tacky Christmas-spirit fluff you usually see in them. The whiny kid doesn’t help though, and the belief in Santa theme isn’t explicated on enough to at least be emotionally effective amidst its cliche-ness, bad SFX, and cheese.
The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it’s up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren’t abandoned and to return home. (IMDb)
Seems to tread on some familiar ground with the Andy-obsessed Woody instigating another “get back home” adventure plot, but its central journey (this time a fantastically elaborate prison break) is more enjoyable and creative than ever and thoughtful new themes of toy aging and retirement are introduced. The daycare setting feels a little unrealistic (the toys rarely seem to think about human contact) but it does bring some great new characters (see flaky Ken) to the usual hilarious mix.
A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room. (IMDb)
The imaginative “living toys” premise is milked for all its worth here, with a diverse set of memorable (and superbly voiced and animated) characters (from a fearful T-Rex to a self-drawing etch-a-sketch, to the uptight Woody–a refreshingly imperfect lead), lots of sharp situational and self-aware humour and wildly fun adventures in the giant human world, and even some emotional toy existentialism (see Buzz’ delusion and Woody’s insecurities). It truly is a cinematic treat for all ages.