Toy Story 4
Ahhh... Toy Story. The franchise that launched a thousand proverbial Pixar ships and changed the landscape of Disney forever. I was only seven years old when Toy Story was released in 1995 and I legitimately was raised with Woody, Buzz, and the whole gang. I am the same age as Andy so when he's preparing to go off to college in Toy Story 3, I was in college myself. I deeply felt the gigantic shift of leaving his childhood behind and moving on to adulthood. It's a coming of age story that still sticks with me. Toy Story was and forever will be my favorite Pixar creation.
Toy Story 4 is a bit removed from what I'll call the "Andy Trilogy." We pick up with the toys in the room of new owner and soon to be kindergartener, Bonnie. Woody is having to come to terms with not being the favorite toy anymore. Andy is certainly referenced and we get a little flashback where we see him, but this movie is centered around Woody. If you're a big fan of the supporting cast of toys from the "Andy Trilogy," be prepared to not see much from them.
We see Bonnie getting ready to head off her kindergarten orientation and struggling with the transition. Woody decides to slip into her backpack to try to help her get through the day. He knows Bonnie likes to be creative and artsy, so he quietly gathers some craft supplies in front of her where she ends up creating the newest toy to add to the bunch, Forky. Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) is a hilarious and clever new addition to the cast. Because Forky is brand new to the group, and also having a bit of an existential crisis, he acts as our guide through the new adventures to come.
The film takes you on several adventures beginning with Woody's helpful nudge with Bonnie in orientation, to guiding Forky on his new life as a toy versus trash, to deciding when it's time to do something for yourself. You have the interesting arcs of Bo Peep's life after Molly and you're introduced to Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), the very funny Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and the attached duo of Ducky and Bunny (Key and Peele). Each character has their own reality and motivations that truly are deep and moving. What's most impressive is the way this franchise not only reinvented itself once again, but how so many different paths and plot lines can weave together so seamlessly. This movie manages once again speak to the adults in the theater very clear and meaningful way while still being wildly entertaining for the younger audience.
This installment was funnier and a little darker than all that came before it. I really enjoyed the emotional ride. It didn't pack quite the gut punch that Toy Story 3 did for me, but that doesn't mean it's not the ride that Pixar is known for taking you on every time! There are a lot of important themes to unpack in this one which means there's a little something for everyone. Identifying and fulfilling your true purpose in life, making big/hard decisions for yourself, facing the threat of being obsolete, learning to adapt, supporting your friends, listening to your conscience... I could go on and on. It's all in there and it's so well done. And I'm telling you, you're going to laugh a lot along the way!
This is the sequel I'm not sure we really needed, but I'm so glad they made. Who doesn't love getting to see a little more from our favorite group of toys?! And if you didn't find ventriloquist dolls terrifying before this movie... you will after!
After 25 years with this cast of characters, there's only one thing left to say... To infinity... and beyond!
Brit's Tip: Stay through the first half of the credits for some very funny bonus scenes. And as always, be on the lookout for easter eggs. I definitely spotted a couple including a very special grape soda bottlecap from Up.