Toy Story 4 Review
Mention the words “Toy Story” to a lot of millennial’s today, and they’ll probably respond with nothing but praise and affection; myself included. Watching Toy Story on VHS is one of my earliest childhood memories. I consider Toy Story 2 to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Plus it gave us this scene:
I never get tired of that. For all my love of Toy Story, though, I never saw Toy Story 3 in its entirety. I was too sad about it being the end to see it in theaters (note to self: watch it this summer). Then out of the blue, Pixar gave us another Toy Story film this summer. While experience has taught me that this could potentially be a shameless cash grab, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. It is Pixar, after all. After going to see the new Toy Story 4, I’m pleased to say that it is no cash grab.
Quick Plot 101
It’s been two years since Andy’s toys got adopted by Bonnie, and they’ve settled into their new lives pretty well. Woody’s being neglected by Bonnie for weeks now, something that bugs him more than he’d care to admit. When Bonnie comes home from her kindergarten orientation with Forky, a toy spork she made with trash, Woody takes it upon himself to look after Bonnie’s new favorite toy. As we see in the trailers, Forky doesn’t want to cooperate, leaving the two stranded while on a road trip. As Woody tries to get them home to Bonnie, he ends up running into his old sweetheart, Bo Peep, whose post-Andy life makes him reconsider his purpose as a toy.
Now that that’s out of the way let’s get to the meat of this review: what I loved, and what to nitpick.
Forky Is our Spirit Toy
The Internet has spoken, and it adores Forky! The Toy Story 4 website describes him as the kind of toy that only a kid who spent twenty minutes making him would love. That’s accurate for the newest toy in Bonnie’s room. Of course, that’s Forky’s main problem: he’s not a toy, and he knows it. The other toys realize it, too, but they support him in his new life anyway. Forky wants nothing to do with them, though, and insists that he’s trash, and tries several times to throw himself out.
While annoying at first, Forky reveals his obsession with trash is because it’s his comfort zone. It’s what he remembers from before being a toy, and it’s warm and comforting to him. It’s like his security blanket, and he’s not ready to part with it.
At a crucial point in the film, Woody uses Forky’s love of trash to get through to him finally: he makes Bonnie happy the same way garbage makes him happy. Once that realization hits, Forky begins to embrace his life as a toy and his newfound purpose.
I can see why everyone loves Forky so much: he’s an insecure fish out of water that’s thrown out of his comfort zone, and that’s scary for most people. He tries to reject his new circumstances in life, but as time goes on, he learns to embrace them and starts forming an actual personality. He’s kind-hearted, naive, friendly to other toys, and has a mischievous streak that we can’t help but smile at. He also proves to be insightful, as he picks up that Woody hasn’t gotten over Andy.
Woody’s Character Growth
Remember how jealous Woody was of Buzz in the first film, and how much trouble that put the two of them in Toy Story? As if coming full circle, this film puts him in a very similar set of circumstances: his favorite toy status gets replaced by Forky. Thankfully, Woody takes it all in stride and tries to put Bonnie’s happiness over his own status. At least, that’s how it looks on the outside.
No matter how he denies it, two things become apparent. He’s upset at no longer fulfilling his purpose in life, and he misses Andy. So he attempts to cover up the fact that he misses Andy through his loyalty to Bonnie and protecting Forky, even when the other toys want to give up. This almost alienates him from the now childless Bo, who embraces the freedom of being a lost toy.
Woody’s always been unfailingly loyal to his child and his friends. It’s his biggest strength, but Toy Story 4 shows that it can be a weakness. He’s too loyal to Bonnie to accept that, maybe, she doesn’t need him anymore. The experiences that Woody has in the film, though, help to give him a new perspective on life. Serving as Forky’s mentor helps him move on from his past as Andy’s toy, and reuniting with Bo makes him realize that he could help a lot more kids and toys in the world.
The Less than Spectacular
I had to nitpick to find things about this movie that I didn’t like. I can’t help it, I love the franchise. In the end, this was the only major complaint that I could think up.
Franchise Veterans Get Neglected
As I was walking out of the theater after seeing the movie, a thought crossed my mind: I don’t remember seeing the Little Green Men. I didn’t even hear them say anything! Considering they’re some of the most popular characters in Toy Story, this was a disappointment. It also serves as a springboard for a problem I had with the film: it neglects the veteran cast members.
That’s right: the Potato Heads, Hamm, Rex, Slinky, Jessie, and Bullseye have little to no effect on the plot. They only say a few lines, but that’s about it. If this is the last film in the Toy Story franchise, then this will be the last time we may ever see a lot of these guys. To see the characters we loved growing up with being pushed aside was sad.
My Final Verdict
When Toy Story 3 came out, it felt like the proper end to the story that gave Pixar its big break. So when the studio announced Toy Story 4, we could be forgiven for worrying that it was a cash grab. Plenty of movie series got wrecked because people got greedy. Thank god Toy Story didn’t end up like that.
This movie may not have been necessary, but that doesn’t change the fact that we welcomed it anyway. Toy Story’s just that kind of story: simple yet oh, so elegant. The best part of it is that the kids who grew up watching the original are old enough to have kids of their own, and they’re taking them to see Pixar’s latest film. That inspires a new generation that will love the movies as much as we did.
I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Woody, Buzz, or the others. I know that its’not the last we’ll see of Forky. In some form or another, Toy Story will continue. For now, though, I think this film ties the series up with a neat bow.
I give Toy Story 4 a 4.9/5. It’s Playtime.
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