Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) return to the screen in director Josh Cooley’s Toy Story 4 from Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. After opening with a brief backstory regarding the separation of Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and Woody, the latest entry in the Toy Story franchise reintroduces us to Bonnie (Madeline McGraw), whose first appearance was in Toy Story 3.
Bonnie is still of the owner of all the toys that Andy (the human owner from the previous three films) donated to her. Entering kindergarten, Bonnie is having trouble adjusting to school until she makes a toy spork, whom she gives the name Forky (Tony Hale).
Instantly Forky becomes Bonnie’s favorite toy; however, Forky is going through an identity crisis, thinking he’s garbage and not a toy. Woody makes it his mission to ensure Forky remains safe. One weekend, Bonnie’s family goes on a road trip, and Forky decides to jump out of a window. Giving chase, Woody finds himself in an unexpected reunion with Bo Peep. Soon Woody finds himself running afoul of demented doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). Buzz and the rest of the gang set out to rescue Woody.
No matter what the film series, by the time you reach the fourth film fan fatigue can usually set in. In particular, with animation, for me, the fourth film is generally seen as nothing more than a cash grab. Honestly, the franchise could’ve ended with the third film, which had a definitive conclusion. Thankfully the script by writers Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom weave a heartfelt story worth telling.
Mainly focusing on Woody and completing his arc that began in the original film in 1995, for me, Toy Story 4 is all about the ubiquitous change that comes with life. The toys have been a family for twenty years, but as children and fade away, so does their desire to play with toys. Toy Story 3 successfully painted a picture of toys leaving the original owner as the owner grows up only go to another owner to start a new life. Throughout the film, the writers successfully paint subtle metaphors using change as the backdrop. Even with our antagonist Gabby Gabby, the writers allow us to sympathize with her.
Given that this is a new entry in the franchise, we meet some new characters, all of whom deliver scene-stealing moments. Carnival toy duo Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) were a laugh riot, as was Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). The new character makes up for key figures the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and Jessie (Joan Cusack) from the previous films pushed to the background. Even the character of Buzz doesn’t have a stable arc; however, for the story, the writers wanted to tell the decision works.
Full of glorious animation, heart, and stellar voice work by its cast, Toy Story 4 is a rarity in an animated film that takes franchise fans and possibly new fans on an emotional journey where the tears flow naturally. Toy Story 4 is worth the trip to your local theater. While the film does end of an appropriate and conclusive ending, should there be a Toy Story 5, I’m ready to reopen the toy chest.
Final Grade A +