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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Toy Story 4', 'Code 8' | Dramedy Sequel, Tom Hanks, Stephen Amell, Robbie Amell

'Toy Story 4' crew hiding, 'Code 8' crew plotting
Toy Story 4 (L), Code 8 (R)


Since Toy Story 4 was announced, the big question was that is it worth bringing the series back after succeeding thrice. You could argue that at least they waited 9 years to do it and during those years they received a compelling pitch for a new instalment so it wasn’t a rushed process. For me Toy Story 3 was everything you’d want from an animated movie all while putting a nice bowtie for Andy, Woody and Buzz’s stories. Thank the heavens that this one doesn’t meddle with that, instead it is its own retrospection of Woody’s journey and a toy’s purpose as a whole.

2019 was a massive leap for animation all around with the gorgeous sceneries of 'How To Train Your Dragon 3', remake of 'The Lion King' and 'Frozen 2'. Though with Into The Spider-Verse you might’ve expected a new trend to emerge, Toy Story 4 along with the previously mentioned upped the level in a different way. Its animation style is jaw-dropping, especially the water and grass elements in the beginning. It’s in the title but the series is constantly known for the story beats and once again they managed to tell a perfectly fitting one, taking in consideration both what came before and what will come after. Woody’s arc gets a (most likely) nice wrap-up and on the other hand Bo Peep gets a massive improvement as a character, she’s fun to watch here.

This is a feature debut for director Josh Cooley and it’s a damn impressive one. We’re always with the characters, the story is easy to follow and the way the shots are especially in the outside scenes is worth being noted. It’s all tied also to voice acting overall. Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz) and Annie Potts (Bo) are as good as ever but another highlight is also the newcomers: Keanu Reeves is incredible as Duke Caboom, Tony Hale’s anxious delivery as Forky is pure fun while Jordan Peele as well as Keegan Michael Key as Bunny and Ducky, respectively, are hilarious. The new original songs from composer Randy Newman kind of disappoint as they sound more like parodies rather than earnest anthems. Toy Story 4 also doesn’t hit as deep as mainly 3 and 1, even with the heartfelt moments between Woody, Buzz and Jessie at the end. But the film is another sincere addition to the arcs of the characters and that is something to admire.

Smileys: Production design, story, directing, voice acting

Frowneys: Soundtrack

Honestly though, I thought that the rain at the start was real.


A bunny, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Bo hiding
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


Crowdfunded movies could be a tough sell both with word of mouth and artistically. Fortunately Code 8 had a short film to show some of its tricks to make that a little bit easier and to eventually find global distribution in streaming. This low-budget sci-fi film looks much more expensive than it is, which is the best thing you can say about one. It’s earnest with its world building and ambitions even if it doesn’t always completely show on the screen.

Where the film especially looks bigger than supposed to is in the visual side of things. The sci-fi classics like drones, robot cops and digital effects on cameras look good and the locations ground the story both to futuristic world and to street level crime. Cinematographer Alex Disenhof does a wonderful job for the entirety of the movie, his shots look incredibly clear and gritty. When it comes to the characters, more of the intrigue can be actually found on the bad side as Stephen Amell’s (Garrett) gang of criminals bring out more action. Robbie Amell, who plays the main character Connor, does alright but the character is brought down with a generic backstory.

The money was probably (wisely) allocated to the digital side but that does that mean some of the hands-on stuff isn’t quite up to the level of concept. Production design seems very bare-boned with bland looking interiors, you’d like to hope for a sequel so that the vision could be realised more with a bigger budget. In similar fashion (hah) the costume design, make-up and hairstyling could be improved as none of them really tell the viewer anything about the characters. I mean the robots have more of a sense of themselves than the people. Code 8 and director Jeff Chan still manage to stretch beyond their limits which is something I appreciate.

Smileys: Cinematography, Stephen Amell

Frowneys: Production design

Illegally hiring powered people to do construction is actually rather funny.


Four of the crew members plotting at a table
Vertical Entertainment

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