Review by J.T. Johnson
When we last left the toys in Pixar’s Toy Story series, Andy headed off to college. Before he left, though, he brought his beloved toys, which includes Woody and Buzz Lightyear, to a little girl named Bonnie. It showed that the toys will have a new home and it seemed to bring the series to a more-than-satisfying ending.
That’s why I was a little surprised that Pixar wanted to continue the franchise nine years later. Of course, these films make all the money, so from a business standpoint, it was a no brainer. Still, it surprised me that Pixar wanted to tempt fate again to see if they could miraculously capture lightning in a bottle for a fourth time.
I’ll admit, not many animated films can hold their premise beyond the original. Sure, sequels to animated films happen all the time, but how many of them actually turn out good? How many fourth films turn out to be good? I’m sure you can understand my initial concerns.
Thankfully, my concerns were soundly put to rest by “Toy Story 4” as we catch back up with our characters not long after Andy gave the toys to Bonnie. Before we get to that, though, we finally learn what happened to Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and discover that she was given away after Andy’s sister didn’t want her anymore. Fast forward to the present and we learn that Woody (Tom Hanks) is having a hard time adjusting to his new position.
In Bonnie’s house, she’s grown to play with Jessie (Joan Cusack) more than Woody, relegating him to becoming a closet toy. One day, though, Bonnie goes to kindergarten orientation where Woody sneaks in with her and indirectly helps her “create” a new toy named Forky (Tony Hale). Woody is surprised when Forky actually comes to life, but he finds himself babysitting Forky because the new toy doesn’t understand his situation, believing himself to be trash.
On a road trip, Woody has to chase after Forky when he runs away and that’s when the adventure truly begins. The story is one of identity and purpose in one’s own life. How do you identify and accept that you’re now something that you didn’t expect to be? What do you do when your initial purpose in life has been served?
Make no mistake about it, the main plot of this story revolves almost solely around Woody. Admittedly, I was a little shocked to see that all of the original toys kind of take a backseat to the new toys except for Woody and Bo Peep, a toy that he’s soon reunited with on his journey. Even Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) doesn’t really have that much to do though they do manage to eventually get him to Woody.
Thankfully, the new toys serve the main plot of finding one’s identity very well. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) is a doll with a broken voice box that’s never had the feeling of being with a kid. Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) is a toy with serious confidence issues after he couldn’t do the amazing things that his commercial said he could do. Then there’s Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) and they’re… well, they’re just extremely funny and definitely the scene stealers in the movie.
Okay, so I definitely enjoyed this film, but where does it stand in the series as a whole? To be honest, I do think that “Toy Story 3” is a better and more emotional film than this entry. Don’t get me wrong, this film definitely has emotional moments and I found myself tearing up during a couple of scenes, but it just didn’t have quite the impact that the third film did.
I’ll put it this way. I know that this probably won’t be the last film because, let’s face it, the movie will make all the money, but a part of me really does hope that this will be the final entry into the series. Why? Because if “Toy Story 3” was the perfect ending to the story, then “Toy Story 4” is a fine epilogue to a series that has entertained generations for the past 24 years.