Toy Story 4

She keeps relegating Woody to the back of the closet, something that minor control freak Woody isn’t used to after being the top toy in town.

While Toy Story 3 managed to efficiently wrap up the story of Andy’s toys when they were given away to Bonnie in a heartfelt finale, the series has continued afterwards with various shorts and TV specials. Now Toy Story 4 arrives, efficiently wrapping up the toy’s story in a heartfelt finale, yet again. The basic framework of this fourth film feels a wee bit like Toy Story 2. Also for all the emotional stuff, this is one of the more breezy, madcap entries in the series, until the final minutes hit. It’s good to see this crew one last time. Until the next time. Probably. 

Woody (Tom Hanks) is adjusting to life as one of Bonnie’s (Madeleine McGraw) toys. While toys like Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) are getting attention, she keeps relegating Woody to the back of the closet, something that minor control freak Woody isn’t used to after being the top toy in town. When Bonnie goes to school, she makes a toy out of a spork by basically just gluing googly eyes and twist tie arms onto it and names him “Forky”. Forky (Tony Hale) is a wretch of a creature that believes its destiny is to be used and thrown away and it tries repeatedly to toss itself in the garbage much to Woody’s consternation. When Forky disappears a road trip Woody goes to find him, landing at a travelling carnival. There Woody is shocked to find his old girlfriend Bo Beep (Annie Potts) who was given away years ago, and, even though she was thrown away, she has thrived and made friends with discarded misfit toys. Eventually Forky is captured by the mastermind doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and Woody, Bo and friends must rescue him before Bonnie’s dad drives away.

Instead of the classic characters this Toy Story is mostly focused on Woody, new characters, and Bo Beep, who disappeared from Toy Story 3. Buzz is on a rescue mission very similar to when Buzz was on a rescue mission in Toy Story 2. Buzz has a subplot about how Woody told him that he listens to the voice in his head, his conscience, which Buzz interprets quite literally that the voice activation buttons on his person (Buzz’s voice box seemingly has way more options this time than pervious installments). It’s a funny, slightly silly reasoning as Buzz has always been quite literal and it leads to some good gags like when Buzz doesn’t want to leave Woody behind but his voice box keeps proclaiming to retreat. 

The other way this movie is like Toy Story 2 is the classic doll Gabby Gabby being the mastermind like the Prospector was and later Gabby Gabby is sad at being discarded like Jessie was. Although this isn’t a lazy copy and paste sequel the strains of the format are starting to show a bit. That’s probably why this movie mostly discards the classic cast and focuses on new ones. Even Bo Beep has changed so much she’s almost completely different character, having turned into a determined action heroine survivalist. Unlike most toys she found herself more content without a human and doesn’t need to be someone’s property. 

Forky is a truly hilariously twisted creation, basically from the moment he is introduced he can only say “Trash” and repeatedly throws himself in the garbage, although he becomes more articulate as it goes on. There’s a fluffy duck and bunny combo who are sewn together voice by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and this is the first time they’ve reunited in a comedy in years so it’s awesome to hear them bounce off each other. Ducky and Bunny also have some crazy fantasy asides where they dream about their skills at combat, culminating in an especially wild in a mid-credits stinger. A fantastic new edition is the Canadian stuntman toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) who is suffering from emotional trauma of being discarded because he couldn’t do the spectacular stunts on TV ad but he keeps trying to make a dangerous jump. His introduction is laced with Canadian references, he was a Boxing Day present!, and Reeves’ frantic voice performance is fantastic. 

The movie keeps things at a zippy pace as there are a lot of cool chase scenes as the story ping pongs between Woody’s quest and Buzz trying to keep things together before Bonnie’s family leaves. It’s so breezy throughout it makes the final decision by the toys so surprisingly emotionally resonant. While it may not match the closing minutes of Toy Story 3, it’s pretty darn great and better ending than most animated features which generally just shrug and have a dance party closing sequence. 

Toy Story 4 feels a bit more like franchise extension than a needed story but that is only because the bar was set so high before. But this is still a fantastically enjoyable flick and it is great to see this world again. It is a consistently funny romp with a few strange, darkly hilarious turns and the finale has something to say about moving on. As far as resonant, moving endings go, it’s nice that Toy Story got another one. V


 Toy Story 4 

4 stars 

Director: Josh Cooley

Starring: Tom Hanks, 

Tim Allen and

Annie Potts

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