Synopsis – When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.
My Take – There is no denying of the fact that the Disney-Pixar combo are the masters of animation, in fact, their first feature film release, Toy Story (1995), can be held accountable for revolutionizing the computer-animation industry.
But with 1999 sequel, they achieved a rare status by producing a story widely considered to be as good as, if not better than, the original.
A trend followed up in the 2010’s third installment, which as far as conclusions to beloved franchises go, can be considered hard to beat. Mainly as the film acted as a fitting send-off to its beloved characters – Woody, Buzz, and their gang of misfits. Tugging heartstrings, as we learn that Andy’s toys are no longer his, and cutting deep with the realization that growing up also means letting go of things you love.
While Pixar had made it clear that it had no plans to make a fourth and wouldn’t entertain the idea unless an extraordinary addition was on the table, the announcement of a fourth film clearly felt more like a cash grab, considering how Toy Story 3 went on to rake in $1.067 billion at the worldwide box office.
After all what more could a 24 year old franchise add which hasn’t been done before? And what would it take to make yet another story for a series which has constantly outdone itself in film after film, yet still feel fresh?
Thankfully, this Josh Cooley directed film is not only just a massive triumph animation wise, but the film’s heartfelt finale continues the story organically all the while proving that this one is indeed an even better ending for these characters.
While, whether this film is equal to, or better than, the other three will be hotly debated amongst fans, but at the end of the day, it’ll be a win-win argument, because, at the very least, the new sequel is undoubtedly on par with its predecessors.
Taking place almost a decade later after Andy has passed his beloved toys to young Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw), the story follows the familiar gang of toys led by Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), and consisting of Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack), Rex (voiced by Wallace Shawn), Hamm (voiced by John Ratzenberger), Slinky Dog (voiced by Blake Clark), Mr. Potato Head (archived voice clips from the late Don Rickles), Trixie (voiced by Kristen Schaal), among others.
While Bonnie continues to play with all of them, Woody begins to get pushed aside as time begins to pass. Often left inside the closet with her baby toys. But when Bonnie has to attend her orientation day for kindergarten, Woody sees an opportunity to sneak into her backpack to look after the nervous girl.
In class, when a kid grabs some of her art supplies and drops the rest in the bin, Woody jumps in to return whatever is left back to her, along with bits of rubbish. Delighted, Bonnie gets to working and creates her new toy, Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), a plastic fork with Popsicle-stick feet, googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms.
However, Forky is having an existential crisis, as he knows he is trash and feels like his only destination is the trash can, a safe haven. Hereby forcing Woody to takes it upon himself to keep rescuing and returning Forky, which gets harder when Bonnie and her parents decide to embark on a road trip in an RV.
A journey on which the gang comes across their former member Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), two carnival toys Ducky (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (voiced by Jordan Peele), a Canadian stunt-motocross action figure known as Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves) , and a manipulative vintage doll called Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who has been stuck living in an antique store for a long time and is ready to do whatever is needed to live a blissful life in a human household.
Pixar’s streak to provide closure for its characters have come off well once again this time. We get to see the romance that always existed between Woody and Bo, the amazing friendship between Buzz and Woody and how the gang always hold each other’s’ back. This time, with a lot of emotions and ‘Woah’ moments, Pixar has indeed succeeded. In my opinion this film stands out from its predecessors in the way it keeps us on the edge of our seats.
With more action, terror, fun, and emotions, the film takes us through them all completely engaged. Here, the emotions run high, with stunning animation and imagery all around. New characters will win over your heart and make you laugh out loud with the funniest one liners. Did anyone really expect anything less, after three exceptionally strong films in this franchise?
While essentially a road-trip film, the story focuses on the toys finding their place in the outside world for the first time and it’s hard not to draw the analogy between young adults moving out of home. The film captures the feeling of uncertainty but also the new found possibility that leaving a place of comfort entails and it’s a joy to see the series mature along with the kids who first watched Toy Story back in 1995.
In one way or another, all Toy Story films are about moving on. From Buzz’s struggle to differentiate between reality and fantasy in the original to the gang’s heartache over Andy going to college in Toy Story 3, the films are some of the most profound in Pixar’s canon, demonstrating the company’s unique talent for combining beautiful animation with genuinely moving storytelling.
Surprisingly here, the heart of the film, is the character of Bo Peep. No longer the Mae West temptress of the first film, she’s now a rugged individualist who has grown accustomed to freedom and independence. Using her staff as both tool and weapon, and occasionally turning her skirt into a superhero-style cape, Bo reappears in Woody’s life to represent a new vision of happiness. Will Woody once again let her go?
Kudos to screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom for creating a romance that feels kid-friendly but grown-up-level complex at once. Buzz, also provides some unexpected wisdom at the right moment.
Along with making your eyes well up, the film is also consistently funny. From Rex’s ploy to get Bonnie’s dad (voiced by Jay Hernandez) arrested to Duke’s insistence upon incessant posing to Bunny and Ducky’s witty banter to the ignored snow patrol Combat Carl (voiced by Carl Weathers) to Forky’s very existence, the film lands nearly every joke. But, outside of some sour sequels (the Cars franchise), we’ve come to expect that level of comedic consistency from Pixar.
Likewise, we’ve come to expect an emotional heart to every Pixar film, one that sends 10-year-olds out of the theater thinking, just as it does their parents. Expectedly, the film is also beautiful to look at, especially Forky’s own design, so pleasingly naive, suggests to viewers that all a child really needs is imagination, and that the most unlikely sources can provide creative inspiration.
The returning voice cast led by Tom Hanks and supported by Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Jeff Pidgeon and Wallace Shawn are excellent as always. Tony Hale as Forky is a definite highlight while Keanu Reeves steals his scenes as Duke Caboom and Key and Peele bring their expert comedic timing to a pair of carnival-prize plush toys, as Christina Hendricks brings an expert creepy turn to Gabby Gabby.
In smaller roles, Jay Hernandez, Carl Reiner, Carl Weathers, Betty White, Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks, Alan Oppenheimer, Bill Hader, Patricia Arquette, Timothy Dalton, Flea, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Garlin, Estelle Harris, June Squibb, and Bonnie Hunt are also great. On the whole, ‘Toy Story 4’ delivers yet another fresh, bold, and tear jerking ride of nostalgia that is full of humor and pure emotions.
Directed – Josh Cooley
Rated – G
Run Time – 100 minutes