Was Toy Story 4 necessary after the last film’s great send-off? Probably not. Am I glad this movie exists nonetheless? Very much so.
While sequels often don’t live up to the novelty of the original, the Toy Story series has somehow managed to crank out four equally impressive movies. The fourth instalment of the series takes its lovable characters on another adventure that is still refreshing and captivating. Its inventive story – filled with charm and sincerity – makes Toy story 4 a delightful addition to the franchise.
The film picks up two years after Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and their gang of toys were given to Bonnie. Woody has become slightly neglected, but remains fiercely dedicated nonetheless. When Bonnie creates a toy out of a plastic fork and some googly eyes, named “Forky” (Tony Hale), she develops a strong connection that helps her get through kindergarten orientation.
Despite her love, Forky constantly seeks out the trash instead, and it’s up to Woody to keep him in check. However, during a family road trip, Forky gets taken by Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a neglected doll collecting dust on the shelves of (the aptly named) Second Chance Antiques. Subsequently, Woody and the gang – who reunite with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) after some years – are prompted retrieve Forky for Bonnie.
Like the previous installments, Toy Story 4 continues to explore a toy’s purpose and their relationship to the kid they belong to. We see Woody often recalling fond memories of his time with Andy. And he constantly talks about how it’s his duty as a toy to help Bonnie at all costs. It’s sweet how these toys end up being parental figures to the kids. Through their unique perspective, we’re shown the strong influence a toy has on a kid’s life and just how much a toy actually takes care of the child.
The film thoughtfully emphasizes the important companionship provided by the toys. Early on, Woody sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack at school to look out for her, all because he knows how nervous she is. It’s only when Bonnie creates a new toy – Forky – that she no longer feels alone or worried. And in turn, Bonnie treats her toys like family. The movie has some really sweet montages showcasing the love shared between Bonnie and her toys. It’s easy to understand Woody’s devotion to kids. We get why it’s so important for him to help other toys get the opportunity to love and be loved by a kid as well.
Speaking of Woody, he really goes through a great journey. The movie does a good job of establishing how he can be loyal to a fault towards his kid owners. Sometimes he puts his own happiness (and the happiness of the other toys) second. Even when he is no longer Bonnie’s favourite toy, Woody does his best to keep Forky with Bonnie because he knows how much she loves her new creation. This Woody has come a long way from the jealous cowboy in the first movie. And through this adventure, Woody finds purpose beyond being the favoured toy. He now focuses on helping other toys obtain the wonderful love that he has had.
The supporting characters make quite and impression too. Buzz Lightyear decides to let his programmed “inner voice” guide him, leading to some amusing consequences. He and Woody get to share some sweet moments that show how far their friendship has come. And then we have Forky, the new addition who is immediately lovable. He considers himself unwanted trash until Woody convinces him of Bonnie’s love. Meanwhile, Bo Peep gets a much bigger role and its awesome. She has been a discarded toy for some time but has embraced the free life. Despite having being been broken and patched up, she loves being exposed to various kids. Her breezy personality and self-sufficient life on the roam provide a nice contrast to the intense and more routine-oriented Woody. Bonnie’s other toys get fun moments to shine as well, but they’re sadly featured much less this time around.
Even the main antagonist, Gabby Gabby, plays an interesting role. All she wants is to be loved by a child, but believes her broken voice box is preventing this. She ends up being more of a sympathetic foil than an evil villain. Her story smoothly coincides with Woody’s quest to unite Forky and Bonnie. Also, her ventriloquist dummy goons are truly creepy. However, it is a bit unfortunate that Gabby Gabby happens to be embraced by a kid only after her voice box is fixed. I kind of wish that same acceptance was found with her as she was before.
Even so, Toy Story 4 is incredibly engaging and well put together. It deftly balances the softer character moments with humour and action. The jokes and gags work really well too, both for kids and adults alike. There are amusing, witty and silly, with some fun self-awareness. Meanwhile, the story skillfully utilizes its animated-toy premise through every aspect. From battles in the creepy antiques store to characters navigating through a carnival, there are many fun and creative set-pieces. The toys’ specific features are cleverly incorporated into the plot and setting. Most of the characters get to contribute, whether it’s by rescuing Forky, or keeping tabs on Bonnie and her family. And of course, the entire voice cast and animators bring the characters and settings to life brilliantly.
Toy Story 4 is more than a pleasant surprise – its’ wonderfully funny, creative and heartwarming. Containing all the best elements from its predecessors, this film expands on its themes and characters in an impressively entertaining and emotionally satisfying way.