And here I thought we didn’t need another sequel to this series…smh.
Nearly ten years after the last sequel was released, Toy Story 4 sees our favorite toys living the good life with their new owner, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), as she begins her first day of kindergarten. Worried about how she might handle the situation, Woody (Tom Hanks) takes it upon himself to sneak into her backpack and make sure her day goes off without a hitch. But then something unexpected happens, something only the mind of a child could come up with: Bonnie returns home with a new toy in tow, a toy of her own making named Forky (Tony Hale). Slapped together with a spork, a handful of items from the trash and a healthy dose of imagination, Forky immediately springs to life like the other toys in Bonnie’s collection but with a catch: he’s having an existential crisis and can’t seem to understand what he is nor what being alive entails. As Bonnie and her family take a road trip out into the wilderness, Forky is in a constant state of disbelief and confusion as to his purpose in life, and is almost immediately lost when Woody makes a pit stop at an antique store where Forky is captured by Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her posse of creepy ventriloquist dummies. Now, with the help of Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), newly found Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and the rest of the OG toy crew, Forky must be rescued and returned to Bonnie before her and her family drive away without him, a fate worse than anything a newly christened toy could imagine.
Okay, I’ll admit it; I was not 100% onboard with this one at first glance. I know, I know, I probably should have known better and not doubted Pixar in the slightest, but after the near perfect trilogy capper that was Toy Story 3, this newest sequel immediately felt like a shameless cash grab that the higher-ups at Disney dictated the studio make in order to reap that sweet, sweet cash flow from unsuspecting families. Each trailer I saw I was hesitant about, each new piece of info I took with a grain of salt, and all because I just couldn’t think of why this franchise needed another sequel, let alone what could still be said about these characters and their story. But now after seeing the film in all of its glory, I can happily report that this is a sequel that was indeed deserving of the greenlight, and above all else, another near perfect hit in Pixar’s long resume of films.
Acting as more of an epilogue to the trilogy that came before, Toy Story 4 is the sum of all of its previous parts and more. By focusing on the characters that have populated this series from the beginning i.e. Woody, Buzz and Bo Peep, the filmmakers have crafted a film that isn’t about them specifically, but uses them in ways that compliment and reinforce the ideas and themes this film presents. Whether it be about coming to terms with becoming a lost toy, figuring out what constitutes as a toy, understanding what toys mean to their owner, and most importantly of all, the idea of having a life after your owner doesn’t need you anymore, are all valid and interesting thoughts that the filmmakers touch on and explore in ways I wasn’t expecting. Complimented by animation that needs to be seen to be believed, (the dust particle effects and textures are mind blowing to say the least), this story is a much more nuanced affair, and the filmmakers make sure that comes across in the quieter moments through their animation, spot on direction and scripting.
With the addition of Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), Bunny (Jordan Peele) and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) to round out the original cast, the script’s penchant for changing and evolving its narrative organically was a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t expecting let alone thought would work. The new characters are seamlessly brought into the story and rather than simply having them there for newness sake, actually contribute to the proceedings in legitimate and meaningful ways. Throw in what has to be some of the most constantly funny moments the series has ever pulled off as well as a few nicely placed twists, and you have a film that is firing on all cylinders for nearly the entire runtime.
I have exactly two nitpicks for this film, and they are so negligible that I don’t even know why I’m mentioning them but I’m gonna do it anyways. As to be expected, this film doesn’t hit the highest of emotional beats that Toy Story 3 gut punched us with (that incinerator scene had me shed a couple tears), but instead opts to give us a different type of emotional journey that is less about saying goodbye to our childhood as human beings and moving on with life after our toys are no longer needed, and more about giving us a complete journey for our toy characters and playing out what this story means to them. Don’t get me wrong, everything here is still emotionally charged, it’s just not as effective as the last film, making me prefer Toy Story 3 ever so slightly to this one. Oh, and the second nitpick is simple: there’s no Pixar short in front of this one! But that literally has nothing to do with the movie itself, I was just a bit disappointed that there wasn’t anything beforehand as usual.
A film that I personally didn’t think was needed nor warranted before stepping into the theater, Toy Story 4 blew me away in ways that I wasn’t expecting. With a script that is constantly shifting and changing between being hilarious and dramatically poignant, Pixar has yet again defied expectations to give audiences a film worth watching as well as give the sendoff these characters deserve after nearly 25 years of bringing us joy and entertainment. Word on the street is that this is truly the last Toy Story film to hit theaters, and if that is indeed the case, this franchise couldn’t have gone out in a better way. To infinity and beyond!