Toy Story 4 Movie Review
4 out of 5
Nine years ago, we were treated to what everyone believed was the final installment of the Toy Story…Story. The movie had all the tale tell marks of being the conclusion. Andy grew up, the toys were given to a school, where they had to overcome a bad guy, and then they made it home to Andy — who magnanimously gave them to a little girl named Bonnie, who would take the toys in and give them a new life. Everyone left satisfied, and a few even had some tears in their eyes as we thought we were saying good bye to the gang who had been with us since 1995 (still the best entry of the four films in my opinion). But the almighty dollar has a powerful pull, and even though this installment in the series is actually being billed as the last one — something tells me, somewhere down the road, the dollar will have its way again, and we’ll be treated to more Toy Stories — even if the original cast members really are saying farewell. And why not? There are infinite ways to tell stories with toys, and a million more toys that could make their way onto the screen. Each movie has been good, kids love them (as do adults), and again — there’s so much money to be made. I’m just saying — don’t put money on this being the end.
At any rate — onto the film. It all begins in a flashback, as we see a young Andy and his family again, happy as ever and still clinging to his favorite toys. A wrench is thrown into the story however, as we see that Bo Peep is being given away to a new family, and in spite of a heroic effort on Woody’s part to save her, they both eventually agree that this is what needs to happen — and the two of them part ways — believing they’ll never see each other again. Fast forward to the current timeline, and Woody, Buzz and the others are at Bonnie’s just as happy as they ever were with Andy…With one exception. Bonnie loves to play with all of the toys, except Woody, as well as a few others who have been cast aside. She even takes Woody’s Sherriff badge and places it on Jessie, all while leaving Woody in the closet. It’s cause for concern for everyone — even Woody — though he does his best to play it off. As everyone is pre-occupied with that situation, Bonnie has to go to Kindergarten, and is fairly scared of going. She begs her Mom and Dad to take a toy with her, but is told no, and begrudgingly heads off to school for her orientation day. Woody takes note, and suggests that someone go with her — but Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), the leader of Bonnie’s toys — tells everyone that can’t happen. In spite of this, Woody gets into Bonnie’s backpack and helps her through the kindergarten orientation, where she creates a toy, since she couldn’t bring one — called Forky. Forky as you might have guessed is just a spork, with googly eyes, some playdoh, pipe cleaner arms and popsicle sticks for legs — and he is Bonnie’s new favorite toy. When Bonnie gets home, Woody tells everyone about the day, and introduces them all to Forky — who believing he is trash — continually tries to throw himself into the trashcan (not in a morbid way — it’s where he is happiest). With nothing else to do, and perhaps trying to prove he still has worth, Woody takes it upon himself to watch after Forky, and make sure he understands what he means to Bonnie.
Before school begins in earnest — the family decides to go on a vacation — and it is there where the true adventures begin. Woody’s mission of keeping an eye on Forky ultimately fails and he escapes, which leads Woody to leave the group in search of him — with the promise he’ll reunite with them as soon as possible. That mission, though, goes sideways when Woody thinks he has the opportunity to see his old flame, Bo Peep. And that’s where I’ll leave the rest to you…
Just like all of the other Toy Story films, this one is near perfect. The cast is terrific, and as you hear and see them on the screen, nostalgia will overwhelm you. It just feels comfortable, as it should, since the characters have been around for nearly 25 years. The story is strong — albeit the story might be the one weakness, as it once again deals with toys getting lost and the others diving into action to save them. The animation, of course, is just blindingly unreal. It just doesn’t take very long at all to forget you’re watching an animated film with toys as the stars. Especially when you compare it to the original so long ago. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it was just the story — but some of the excitement was missing in this one. Maybe it’s because you know what will ultimately happen, or somewhere deep inside I don’t want this one to be the end. But it does feel a bit different overall. One of the reasons it felt a little off, is because Buzz Lightyear is not a central character in the story, as he has been in the previous three movies. In those — he was Woody’s equal, or close to it. In this movie, he takes a back seat to Bo Peep, and gets a bit lost in the fray. In his absence, new characters are introduced — and that may be where the future of this franchise lies. In particular Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key and Keanu Reeves’ characters are great.
Toy Story 4 may not be as original, or even as good as the first installment, and some may not find it up to par to the second and third chapters — but it’s still really good. Families, kids and older kids will still love it — and again — something tells me this isn’t the end. On a small side note for you eagle eyed watchers out there…Disney and Pixar are notorious for planting little Easter Eggs in their films to show how they all relate, and even exist in the same universe…So be on the lookout. Pay especially close attention to Bonnie’s classmates when she goes to Kindergarten orientation…Very briefly on the screen — I’m pretty sure I saw Boo from Monsters, Inc.!
Toy Story 4 is playing now, and is rated G.