In an age of franchise fatigue and cash-grabbing reboots, it was something of an anomaly to witness multiple screenings and a crowded cinema a full fortnight after Toy Story 4's initial release date. That was my overall impression as I settled down to watch the next instalment of this hugely popular series.
The movie was everything it should have been. It was a funny, poignant and witty joyride of madcap chases, endless peril and lovable characters.
At a time when once indestructible franchises are alienating huge numbers of their own fans, seemingly on purpose, I got to wondering how Toy Story 4 had managed to buck this frustrating trend. It didn't take me long to figure it out because the answer was right in front of me, in Dolby of course.
To put it in a nutshell, Toy Story 4 is just, well...a heart warming Toy Story film. It's an entertaining, charming and expertly executed movie about the adventures of a bunch of toys who we know and love already. All our old favourites are back in action, with some new creations to mix things up just a little. This effortless balance of old and new enables Toy Story 4 to tap into the reservoirs of affection the audience feels before they've even sat down. After all, what is Toy Story without Woody, Buzz and all the others?
Toy Story 4 dodges the observable trend of getting woke and going broke by confining itself to the honourable task of telling a winsome tale from a magical make-believe world. Toy Story's creators rightly saw no reason to shoehorn some cack-handed subscript about female empowerment or hyper-diversity into a kids' film, where they bring no extra monetary or entertainment value. Instead, the characters were just allowed to be the lovable and rather childish toys they've always been. I had worried that perhaps Jessie would've gotten into some bust up with Woody over who was in charge and why, but I was so pleased to see that my personal favourite just carried right on being the boisterous tomboy she's always been. After all, that's the way she was made.
Dolly falls effortlessly into her leadership role because she knows the ways of the new house. There was no need for any authority dramas or saccharin speeches about acceptance (which is usually code for accepting someone else's presumption to authority).
Maybe, just maybe, Disney is starting to learn from the unprecedented backlash against their mishandling of Star Wars, where they engineered the poorly written, systematic and very obvious destruction of all that made the franchise great; before turning viciously on the fan base when it dared to question those entrusted with the greatest franchise of all time.
The fan revolts against the likes of Star Wars and Ghostbusters (ugh) shouldn't be so surprising to anyone who lives outside the Hollywood Hills. People generally don't like to be ripped off, so if the can says baked beans on the outside, then that's what they reasonably expect to find on the inside. This iron law of commerce hasn't stopped the studios from refashioning so many of their reliable cash cows into what they think a new audience really wants, and badly missing the mark.
Toy Story 4 neither embraced nor thumbed its nose at political correctness because the concept is meaningless to a talking plastic cowboy. None of the toys were suddenly gay with no prior indication whatsoever, none of them struggled with some imaginary oppression and nobody had to be taken down a peg or two by some impossibly empowered newcomer with a big mouth and a massive sense of entitlement.
Toy Story 4 is a success because it entertains without trying to instruct us on how we should see the real world once the credits have rolled and the doors have opened.
In these hyper-politicised times, Toy Story 4 is both a welcome relief for us and a valuable lesson for the movie industry. More movie plus less preachy equals more money.
Let's see how smart these Hollywood types really are.