Movie Review Monday: Toy Story 4
Disney dominated the box office once again this weekend with a fourth installment of a beloved Pixar franchise. Toy Story 4 was written by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton, and it is also the directorial debut of Josh Cooley. The film follows Woody and the other toys as Bonnie creates a new toy out of a spork, and they all find themselves on a road trip. The film sees the return of Tom Hanks as the voice of Woody and Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz Lightyear. This installment introduces Tony Hale as the voice of Forky, Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky, Jordan Peele as Bunny, Madeleine McGraw as Bonnie, Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom, and Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples. It also sees the return of Annie Potts as the voice of Bo Peep, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Bonnie Hunt as Dolly, Wallace Shawn as Rex, John Ratzenberger as Hamm, Blake Clark as Slinky Dog, and Kristen Schaal as Trixie.
The film begins with a flashback to nine years prior when the toys were still with Andy. R.C. is stuck in a storm drain, and Woody is able to rescue him with the help of Bo Peep, Slinky Dog, and some of the others. However, after the mission, Bo Peep is given away to another owner. Woody manages to see her before she leaves, and while Bo Peep suggests that he should come with her, he is unable to leave Andy. The film then picks up in the current timeline, where Bonnie is happily playing with all of Andy’s former toys except for Woody. When Bonnie begins to feel overwhelmed by her kindergarten orientation, though, Woody sneaks into her backpack. While she struggles at school, Woody covertly provides some materials out of the trash for her to use. Bonnie uses the materials to make a spork toy named “Forky,” and Woody is shocked when Forky later comes to life in the backpack. The adventure truly begins, though, as Forky questions his existence while the whole gang is taken on a road trip.
So, as someone who questioned the need for a fourth installment in this franchise, I am happy to say that I was wrong. Toy Story 3 might have been the end of the story for Andy with these toys, but Toy Story 4 is a conclusion for the character of Woody. Woody, who has always been extremely loyal to his kid, struggles with his purpose and where he belongs, and he is not the only one that struggles with that notion. It is a mature theme for an animated film about toys, yet it works and makes these characters so identifiable with audiences. It is an incredibly well-written and well-told story, and in addition to completing Woody’s arc, it also explains where Bo Peep was during the events of Toy Story 3.
In addition to the return of beloved characters such as Buzz, Jessie, and Slinky Dog, we also had a lot of new characters introduced such as Forky, Ducky, and Bunny. Toy Story 4 might have some serious underlying themes and personal journeys for the characters, but it also just as fun and hilarious as previous installments in the franchise. Buzz hilariously redefines for us the idea of an inner voice. The character of Forky is delightful and brings a lot of laughs as he continues to believe that he is trash and not a toy. Ducky and Bunny are perfectly voiced by Key and Peele, and their thought sequences left our theater constantly laughing. The character of Gabby Gabby is used well, and the dummies are super creepy but are used in key moments for comic relief. However, no one can eclipse the greatness that is the character of Duke Caboom. Voiced by Keanu Reeves, Canada’s greatest stuntman gives us some of the most quotable taglines from the movie, and his penchant for landings is memorable.
Overall, Toy Story 4 is not just some toothless sequel; it is a moving story that carries its characters even further. From Bonnie’s nervousness about starting kindergarten to Woody’s sense of purpose, this film has a lot for audiences to love and find applicable. In a story that centers on toys, it is remarkably human. It is full of heart and humor, and I cannot think of a better way to cap off this franchise (assuming this is actually the end). Regardless, Toy Story 4 is one for the whole family to enjoy in theaters this summer, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.