I don’t know how they keep doing it, but Pixar has done it again. Toy Story 4 is another triumph for the animated studio. A gorgeous, smart, funny, emotional film about finding your place in life, family, and love.
The last time we saw Woody (voiced once again by Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jesse (Joan Cusack), and the gang they were being given to Bonnie from Andy, who was off to college. We assumed that life was going to be the same for our beloved toys, as they will continue their journey with Bonnie by being played with daily and give their complete devotion to her.
But that’s not what’s happening. Most of the toys are being played with regularly except for one: Woody, who ends up sitting in Bonnie’s closet with a few other older toys collecting dust bunnies. On Bonnie’s kindergarten orientation, a day Bonnie is upset about, Bonnie is not allowed to bring any toys with her school, though Woody has other ideas and sneaks into her bag incase she needs help. Feeling lonely and nervous, Bonnie is tasked with making a pencil case in class, yet doesn’t have any supplies as some other kid took them. In comes Woody, who goes into the trash can throws a plethora of trash onto Bonnie’s table, to which she creates Forky (Tony Hale), a Frankenstein-esque toy made from a spork, different sized googly eyes, a popsicle stick, and a pipe cleaner. Forky immediately becomes Bonnie’s new favorite toy, even though Forky believes that he is not a toy, just trash. Woody recognizes the love Bonnie has for Forky and tells the team they must do everything in their power to keep Forky in Bonnie’s life, regardless of what Forky thinks of himself. On a family road trip, however, Forky escapes and Woody goes after him. Now, it is up to Woody to bring Forky back to Bonnie before they get too far. But on their journey, they encounter a cast of characters, including mafia-esque doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), her deranged ventriloquist doll henchmen, Canadian stunt biker Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and Bo Peep (Annie Potts), whom Woody hasn’t seen in almost a decade.
My biggest fear going into Toy Story 4 was the effect it was going to have on Toy S tory 3, my favorite of the franchise and one of the best animated movies I have ever seen. Part of 3‘s greatness came from how perfectly it ended. The emotional goodbye between Andy and his toys was a perfectly tied finale to one of cinema’s greatest trilogies. We didn’t need a fourth film because of this, but we got one and it didn’t ruin anything 3 gave us. Instead, Toy Story 4 only expands the story of Woody, giving us a film that deals with something Woody has never dealt with before: not being wanted. This is a film about identity and finding your place in the world. Woody’s whole life has been about making Andy happy and he believed that it would be the same for Bonnie. But when it isn’t, Woody is lost and doesn’t know what to do. Is it his job to make Bonnie happy or to make kids happy? What is his purpose as a toy and what is the purpose of a toy in general? It also looks at the idea of freedom and what means to be lost and what it means to be free. It’s pretty heavy stuff, but director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom tell this story with heart and humor, in what is arguably Pixar’s funniest movie to date. We also get an exciting escape movie here, as Woody tries to save Forky from the clutches of Gabby Gabby and her antique store, a sweet love story, and a finale that will pull at your heartstrings almost as hard as Toy Story 3.
Since the original 1995 film, one of the best things the Toy Story franchise has done is bring in great new characters each movie that work wonderfully with the original gang. From Jesse and Stinky Pete in the second film, to Lotso Huggin’ Bear, Mr. Pricklepants and the rest of Bonnie’s original crew, these characters add a new level of comedy, story, and fun to each Toy Story film and the new characters in this one are no different. The regulars are great, as we have come to expect, but it is the new ones here that steal the show. Tony Hale as Forky is one of the best Pixar voice performances in recent years. Forky is a new and confused entity in this world who thinks he is just trash, yet slowly realizes he’s more than that. The banter between Hale and Hanks is perfect. Kristina Hendricks is great as Gabby Gabby, who’s kind demeanor and gigantic eyes make it even more intense when she sends her terrifying ventriloquist army after Woody. The Summer of Keanu Reeves continues as he voices Canadian stuntman Duke Kaboom. You can hear it in Reeve’s voice how much fun he is having here, giving us a stuntman haunted by not being able to perform in the past who must move past it to help Woody and Forky. And my absolute favorite new characters were a couple of plush buddies, Ducky (Keegan Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele). These two are an absolute riot, with Key and Peele essentially doing a G-rated version of their sketch show (titled Key & Peele) about two mentally unstable plush toys who find meaning in their life after hanging on a carnival prize wall for three years waiting for a child to win them,
Before Toy Story 4 came out, it could have been argued that the Toy Story trilogy was one of the greatest, if not the greatest trilogy of all-time. But, now that we got a fourth, the Toy Story franchise is cinema’s greatest tetralogy. This movie has everything you want from a Toy Story movie, a great story, top-notch voice work, gorgeous animation, an exciting plot, hilarious comedy, and a film full of emotion. I absolutely loved Toy Story 4. It is Pixar at its finest and one of the best movie of 2019.
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