Much of “Toy Story 4” is great-ish. The animation is striking, the jokes amusing and the story sweet, though this being Pixar, the tale is also melancholic enough that the whole thing feels deeper than it is. In other words, the movie is exactly what you expect — not more, not less — from an estimably well-oiled machine like Pixar. It seems almost greedy to want something better, less familiar. The fault lies with the studio, which has trained us to expect greatness, partly by making movies as seemingly inimitable as “Inside Out” and “Wall-E.”
Those movies haven’t generated sequels, but serialization in and of itself isn’t the problem with “Toy Story 4.” It’s that this long-running franchise (the first film opened in 1995) already felt over and done by its last installment. In “Toy Story 3” (2010), the boy who owned Woody (gently voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and their colorful playtime cohort, is headed to college and gives his toys to a new child, milestones that seemed to bring the series to a decisive, narratively rounded end.