Toy Story 4

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The IMDB entry for Toy Story 4 lists eight people under writing credits—half of whom are just associated with prior entries in the popular animation franchise—but the film appears to have been based on a treatment by Thomas Ligotti, with the ending "fixed" by a busload of tourists offering test audience feedback.

The film is even more horrifying than Toy Story 3, which was about the brutality of prison and the revolutionary potential of class traitors. 4 is about the uncanny, and the death-wish —and it pulls no punches. The new character introduced is "Forky"—an art project made from trash who does not wish to be a toy; he only wants to return to the filth from whence he came. Much of the first act is Woody attempting to keep Forky from committing suicide as the misshapen twisted abomination of a toy screams "Trash!" and hurls itself from various great heights into piles of garbage. Forky embraces the warmth and squishiness of primitive filth, feeling itself unworthy of life. It's pure Freudian Todestrieb.

The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord "I love you!" sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody's innards for her own. Woody, and later Buzz Lightyear, depend on their preprogrammed inner voices (the superego) to try to navigate the uncanny valley in which they find themselves and trap us, the morally complicit viewer, in with their antics. Bo Peep, a long lost toy, has become hard and brutal after her exile from civilization, casually used to her limbs being snapped off.  She rides around in a skunk to terrorize the society that so cruelly abandoned her, exulting in the ease of which chaos can transform festival into riot and despair. Another new character, Duke Kaboom, also has a death wish—shattered by the rejection of his French-Canadian owner back in the late 1970s, the Evel Knivel cannot make his stunt jumps on his little motorcycle, he can only send himself spiraling into the void over and over, and only then when inspired by the empty erotic manipulations of Bo Peep. (This isn't subtext; Kaboom poses ridiculously to flaunt his crotch whenever Beep asks him to jump to his death.)

And of course, the setting is a dingy carnival across from the antique shop—life is full of empty promises, dust-stained distractions, and the impulse to embrace death. Only two other new characters, Bunny and Ducky (voiced by Peele and Key) don't walk the tightrope between fulfillment and extinction. Natives of the festival hellscape, B and D—for bondage and discipline, as the pair are sewn together permanently by their forelimbs?—they only crave the murder and destruction of others, fantasizing about revealing their sentience and ambulation to rip off of the face of an old woman, and then in the credit sequence to channel demonic powers that would allow them to crush the carnival and set fire to the humans who dare enjoy it.

So the animation is exceptional, and kids seem to enjoy the movie, though my kid said he was "bored" when the characters talked too much about loving children. Which is good, because all the dialogue in the film is about the inescapable terrors of consciousness and the pathetic lies we tell ourselves about love. So keep laughing at the funny cartoon kids, because your own greatest enemy–your own self—is coming for you one day!


So, uh...three and a half stars, I guess!




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