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Toy Story 4 (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Toy Story 4

TOY STORY 4 (2019)

Featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Emily Davis, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Lila Sage Bromley, Don Rickles, Jeff Garlin, Maliah Bargas-Good, Jack McGraw, Juliana Hansen, Estelle Harris, Laurie Metcalf, Steve Purcell, Mel Brooks, Alan Oppenheimer, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Carl Reiner, Bill Hader, Patricia Arquette, Timothy Dalton, Flea, Melissa Villaseñor, Jeff Pidgeon and John Morris.

Screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom.

Directed by Josh Cooley.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studio Pictures. 100 minutes. Rated G.

It’s been 24 years since the world was first introduced to Pixar’s animation with its first feature-length film, Toy Story.

24 years.

That’s more than half a lifetime ago. (Well, for me.) A full generation has come and gone since the world was introduced to its beloved main characters – Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen).

These toys came to life whenever their humans were out of the frame. This is something that the world has always suspected to be true, But, never before did we have filmed proof. They charmed the world as they showed qualities that we hope to instill in our children: love, loyalty, kindness, and faith.

It’s been nine years since the 2010 release of Toy Story 3, a film that we all had thought to be the final installment in the Toy Story franchise. The ending was poignant and left the audience in tears. It gave them the opportunity to pass along their childhood figurines to the next worthy child, with hope for a new, enduring love and purpose for their beloved toys. There really was no need for anything more.

We – the audience and the characters – had closure. Or so I thought.

Much to my surprise and delight, 2019 has graced us with Toy Story 4. It is a worthy addition to the Toy Story family, with a return of most of our favorite characters. It also shows the addition of some endearing new toys to Bonnie’s room (Bonnie was the new girl who got the toys at the end of Toy Story 3), as well as new friends and foes that they meet in the world beyond Bonnie’s house.

Quick summary: Bonnie and her family embark on a final summer road trip in an RV prior to her start of kindergarten. She has a rogue new toy (Forky), who hasn’t quite caught on to the importance of being one of Bonnie’s toys and keeps trying to escape. After one of these escape moments, Woody chases after Forky and an adventure ensues on their attempt to return to the RV before the family returns home.

The plot is simple. It is meant to be followed by small children and their sleep deprived parents. While the plot seems direct, this has always been a franchise driven by its characters. Once again, through great character development, we see some emotional twists and turns.

Woody, ever the caregiver but also looking for some relevance at a time where he spends more time in the closet than in the playroom, takes on the role of guide, trainer, and frankly, babysitter for Forky, the newly created “toy” who insists that he is trash. (Well, because he is, after all, technically trash, rescued by Woody from the can in Bonnie’s soon to be new kindergarten classroom).

Buzz, ever the loyal dolt, is so funny as he follows his pre-recorded inner dialogue as his conscious. And he gets it surprisingly right most of the time.

Annie Potts reprises her voice work in the role of Bo Peep – first seen in the original Toy Story, and again in Toy Story 2 – but with a new, powerful twist: the independence, strength, and resourcefulness of a woman with life experience. She is fantastic, a character to cheer for as she manages to lead, and rescue Woody on more than a few occasions.

Toy Story films always include a “villain” with a backstory, and Toy Story 4 does not disappoint. No spoilers, but for me, this was for sure one of the creepiest villains in the franchise. Still completely age appropriate and not as scary as the Wicked Witch of the West, but very creepy to me.

The film’s opening credits caused instant nostalgia for Toy Story fans, with the animation and Randy Newman score capturing the same feel as the last three, despite the advances in animation technology that we see through the remainder of the film.

If you value a quiet theater – where you can hear every joke to capture every Disney-Pixar potential Easter egg – you’re going to have to wait to go to a late night screening with hope that children have been put to bed in their rooms with their own toys. I cannot remember when I have seen an audience filled with more small children, all delighted and asking their parents lots of questions throughout. In the rare moments where the film hit some quiet dialogue, it was hard to hear everything. I know you know this, but thought it was worth mentioning.

While I had found closure in Toy Story 3, I am ever so happy that Disney-Pixar has given us a bonus film in Toy Story 4. I’m even happier that they have answered some decades-old questions about what happens to your toy when you have not directly passed it on, with a care plan, to a beloved new child. Maybe I can now finally finish going through my old boxes.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: June 21, 2019.

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