Remember when we were all sitting in the theater and crying at the end of Toy Story 3, thinking to ourselves that this was the perfect, most bittersweet ending to this franchise and that nothing else is ever going to top that?
Yeah, turns out that was all just a warm-up for the emotional gut-punch that is Toy Story 4.
In an effort of full transparency, let me just start by being upfront and honest in that I was against Pixar making a Toy Story 4 from day one. In my mind, the first three Toy Story movies are a perfect trilogy. While I’ve at least moderately enjoyed what the animation studio has done with some of their recent sequels in Incredibles 2 and, to a lesser degree, Finding Dory, I really just wanted them to stay the hell away from my Toy Story.
Not this one. Please, whoever is in charge up there (not you, John Lasseter — you should stay out of Hollywood), don’t let them turn this franchise into a cash-grab.
When the trailers started coming out, I remained unimpressed. They all looked like generic, Toy Story mischief that I thought I had completely pegged out, even down to how Bo Peep HAD to be the surprise villain who would be revealed in act three.
As the movie has found its way into theaters, I’m put into a position that I love being in a la The Beach Bum — admitting that I was severely wrong about a film’s quality. Guys, Toy Story 4 is a delight and a half.
Toy Story 4 picks up roughly a few years after the events of Toy Story 3. All of Andy’s old toys are now living with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) and are relatively pretty happy. They get played with often and they get along well with Bonnie’s other toys, so what’s not to like?
Well, everyone is happy except for Woody (Tom Hanks), that is. While you’ll probably never hear him admit to it, he’s suffering some form of postpartum depression as he desperately misses the days he spent with a young Andy. Sure, he cares for Bonnie and all, but she just doesn’t treasure him the way his former owner did, and that’s started to take its toll on the lonely sheriff.
So, yes, even after Andy is out of the picture and everything, Pixar is still keen on ripping your heart out about the thought as to what your childhood toys are doing now and how much they miss you. I know these are movies and none of this is real but JEEZ, THAT HURTS TO THINK ABOUT.
Woody finds something of a purpose, however, when a new toy — er, discombobulated creation — comes home from Kindergarten with Bonnie one day.
It goes by Forky (Arrested Development’s Tony Hale), given that it’s made out of a spork, googly eyes and pipe cleaners. Not only does Forky not look like a normal toy, but he doesn’t necessarily act like one, either.
In fact, Forky is pretty dead set against being a toy at all, given that he’s a disposable piece of silverware who was supposed to be used once and then thrown away. Suddenly, he’s alive and everyone’s telling him how important he is to Bonnie, which is all a bit too much for him to handle.
That’s what then causes Forky to run away during the middle of the night while Bonnie, her parents and the toys are taking a cross-country road trip, then forcing Woody to run after him and convince him to return.
That quest is then subverted by several other side quests, which then brings thing like a carnival, some of the most terrifying dolls you’ll ever see and the aforementioned Bo Peep into the picture.
And, no, she’s not a villain. In actuality, she’s just a really great character.
The rest of the toys — that being Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the whole gang — find their way into the picture, too, although this is primarily Woody’s story. That, in my mind, shows a lot of restraint by the writers and speaks to just how focused of a movie Toy Story 4 really is. I love Rex (Wallace Shawn), Mr. Potato Head (the late Don Rickles) and everyone else as much as the next person, but the writers wisely realized that trying to give all of them story arcs would have just been unnecessary padding.
The thing I really love about Toy Story 4, though, is the fact that the story’s not over. We all thought it was over after Toy Story 3, yes, and if they had ended it there, nobody would have batted an eye. Thing is, Woody’s narrative isn’t complete. His time with Andy might be, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped thinking about it. In actuality, he’s still got a way to grow, and Toy Story 4 explores that in a really nostalgic, western hero kind of way.
There’s an important message thrown in there, I think, about our own stories and relationships with other people. Just because you’re done spending time with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re done thinking about them. The fact that they don’t cheapen that out by finding some way to bring Andy back into the picture (which was my biggest fear when going into this movie) and stick with that message — then showing how Woody has to pick himself up from those memories and move on — is the reason why this movie should and arguably needs to exist.
They, then, compare that to the character of Forky, who has already become an instant favorite amongst the fans. The “I’m trash” mentality and other Tony Hale-like quips are all so funny and does this movie a whole lot of favors.
That also brings Bo Peep into the picture, who might just be the real scene-stealer of Toy Story 4 because this, THIS is how you write a strong female character. Captain Marvel and Alita: Battle Angel both do it pretty well. Wonder Woman does it really well. Toy Story 4, however, has just become the gold standard for mainstream film, as Bo Peep and the journey she’s been in for the past nine years (they perfectly explain why she wasn’t in Toy Story 3) is far more empowering than you’re likely expecting it to be.
There’s a couple of other new characters thrown in here, too. Keanu Reeves plays Duke Caboom, which is basically the Canadian counterpart to Evil Kenevil. He’s got some really funny lines, as do Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a pair of stuffed animals simply named Ducky and Bunny.
Then we get to the actual villain — Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). First of all, Gabby Gabby and his minion of dummies are scarier than any other doll you’ll see on screen this year. Sorry, Child’s Play and sorry, Annabelle Comes Home, but Benson has you beat.
When Gabby Gabby first came on screen, though, I figured she was going to be another standard, Toy Story villain that falls in line with Stinky Pete or Lotso Huggin Bear — and, for a while, she is. Yet, we get into act three, that all kind of falls away as we start to unpack this character, then causing me to suddenly start weeping for this doll and her desire to find a home.
That then brings us to the ending which, again, is going to make you cry. No way around it, so you might as well just accept it now.
Really, though, I’m kind of just blown away at how they pulled it off. Toy Story was done. We all loved the first three movies but then had moved on. Toy Story 4 then comes along and gives us that final goodbye (at least, I hope it’s goodbye for real this time) we didn’t know we need. But we DO need it. There’s important stuff in here, because we weren’t done with these characters. There’s more to life than the memories of someone, we’re told. We don’t have to just sit in the dark, withering away. Life goes on.
Throw in some laugh-out-loud funny jokes (the toy soldier who wants a high-five destroyed me) to boot and we have what is one of my favorite movies of 2019 thus far. So, thanks Pixar. Thanks for not ruining this franchise (I couldn’t rank these movies if I tried) and making a worthy sequel. We’ve got a friend in this studio.
Watch the trailer for Toy Story 4 here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Toy Story 4' - Ugly crying to no end9