Any franchise that has the number four in the name usually denotes a straight to DVD sequel. And I personally assumed Toy Story was gone after the emotional wreckage Toy Story 3 decided to leave us all in. Toy Story 4 is not as good. And as much as it wants to be an ending, it isn’t the same. But it’s still a great movie. Annoyingly good.
After a heart breaking opening scene, we find the toy gang is firmly attached to Bonnie. And, of course, Woody is feeling sad that he doesn’t have the same connection with Bonnie that he did with Andy. Go figure. (No one else seems to be having this problem, despite being toys no one plays with anymore). He discovers a new purpose in the form of Forky. An anthropomorphic spork brought to life by some googly eyes, play-doh, and I assume a child’s love. Pixar doesn’t care if you want to know why toys are alive, they just are. Forky makes Bonnie immensely happy but Forky wants to fulfill his true purpose, which is to be trash. Woody spends his days trying to keep Forky out of the garbage and in Bonnie’s loving, forgetful arms.
That plan goes out the window, quite literally several times. That’s the first half of the film. The second half of the film follows the last three films’ formulas by having a psychotic toy hold all or part of the gang hostage. In Toy Story 4, its Gabby Gabby who wants Woody’s voice box so that a child will choose her from the antique store and play with her forever and ever. Her villainy seems extreme but the film does a great job of redeeming it.
As usual, Pixar effectively and ruthlessly tugs at your heart strings. It’s heartening in a way. Even though it’s a sequel, they put a lot of effort into the story, making it fun, funny, and giving children a brief look at existential dread. Or what they want out of life. Honestly, it spoke to me way more than intended.
Somehow, they bring back an old character (Bo Peep) and make her fresh and new. She’s a veritable badass and a much better foil to Woody’s dopey form of leadership. There’s also some great new characters – the standout obviously being Keanu Reeve’s Duke Kaboom.
An enjoyable romp. An episode 2.5 set after episode 3, the true ending. As much as it feels out of place, it still feels right.
3.5 out of 4 stars