The fourth film in the computer animated series created by Pixar for Disney Studios, Toy Story 4 feels like a conclusion of the tale more than anything else. Gorgeous in appearance and full of laughter and tears, director Josh Cooley (his directorial debut) and screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom have done right by the characters and the ardent fans who love these films.
My family basically grew up with the Toy Story films. I watched the early ones initially with my nephews (now 25 and 30), and then proceeded to go through the process with my only kids. So watching Toy Story 4 with my 10 year old felt like the completion of a process that began 24 years ago.
The great things about these films is that we have core characters that we care about a great deal – Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusak), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and the rest of the gang. They in turn care a great deal about their kid – it used to be Andy (Jack McGraw) who is seen in flashbacks but now it is Bonnie (Madeline McGraw), and they will do anything to make her happy.
Woody sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack because she is so upset about going to Kindergarten orientation, and he watches her from her cubby as she negotiates the rough waters of new kids and teacher. During an arts and crafts session, Bonnie creates a new “toy” from a spork and calls it Forky. Later on Forky gets put in the backpack with Woody. Soon Woody learns that any object can become a toy if a child wants to play with it.
Forky (Tom Hale) is a hilarious character who at first cannot accept his toy status and wants to be in the garbage since that is where he was when Woody threw him on the table for Bonnie’s arts and crafts session after another kid took away her materials. Woody exerts a great deal of effort to save Forky from himself and the trash bin.
Forky cannot accept that he is Bonnie’s favorite toy, even when the rest of the gang welcomes him into the club. Not long afterwards Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip in an RV with all the toys along for the ride. Forky makes one last dash for freedom and jumps out the window with Woody not far behind him.
After Woody rescues Forky and Forky agrees not to trash himself, they try to make their way back to the trailer park on foot. They pass through a town and Woody sees Bo Peep’s (Annie Potts) lamp in its window. In a flashback we see how Andy’s Mom (Laurie Metcaff) had given away Bo, her sheep, and the lamp because his sister Molly had outgrown it. Woody has deep feelings for Bo and he drags Forky into the store in hopes of finding her.
There we meet what makes for the movies antagonists – a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her creepy hench dummies (all voiced by Steve Purcell) who stand in the way of a Woody and Bo reunion.
The rest would be spoiler territory, but there are very funny moments where all the kids in the theater burst out in laughter, but there are also extremely whimsical ones too and some adults will be reaching for the tissues. While no one is saying this is the last film in this series, the ending will make you feel that way.
It is a major achievement that in these four films we have grown to love and care about these toys. Credit goes to Pixar for the lifelike animation and the writers for giving the characters their humanity – they desire things, they love, they fear, and care for each other and the kid who is lucky enough to have them.
So while the film is about finding Forky in many ways, it is also about finding the kid in all of us. Sadly, as we grow up and our toys collect dust on the shelf or in the closet or are given away, we loose the essence of our childhoods that make life magical.
The film is dedicated to Don Rickles (who voiced Mr. Potato Head) and animator Adam Burke who passed away recently.
Go see Toy Story 4 – your kids will love it and you will feel like a kid again.