Published on June 22nd, 2019 | by Craig Silliphant0
Toy Story 4
Whether Toy Story 4 needed to exist is debatable. However, the folks at Pixar have made another entertaining and emotional film, which says it all.
It would be easy to be cynical about the existence of a new Toy Story movie. After all, Pixar and Toy Story 3 brought a satisfying closure to the story of Andy’s childhood and the trilogy itself. But it’s also easy to give Pixar the benefit of the doubt. Even if our most cynical selves say that it’s a money grab, if there’s one thing Pixar doesn’t inspire, it’s cynicism. Even my own my own trademark brand of skepticism is usually silenced by the supreme story craftspeople at Pixar.
Regardless of all of this, a Toy Story 4 did arrive this week. This time around, Woody and the gang are living in the room of a new little girl, Bonnie, who inherited the toys after Andy grew up and went to college. However, Woody is in a peculiar position; for the first time, he’s not the favourite toy and the leader of the group. But on Bonnie’s first day of kindergarten, her parents won’t let her bring a toy to school to comfort her, so Woody sneaks into her bag to watch over her. He ends up helping her build a new toy — a spork called Forky (Tony Hale), constructed from pieces of pipecleaner and googly eyes liberated from the trash. A series of events leads to a big journey that takes the toys into a great big world to rescue Forky.
The movie explores at least one complex central idea, that we can all outlive our usefulness, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen all that life has to offer. While we’ve introduced a new character in Forky, who has to grapple with existence, he actually drops to the background partway through the movie. This is really Woody’s story. It is illustrated by characters like Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a doll who was born defective and has always been considered as useless as Woody is now feeling. Strangely though, it’s worth noting that Buzz Lightyear is given a perfunctory b-story that ultimately feels like it only exists to serve the plot, though while slight and too obvious, it is still entertaining enough.
In fact, a lot of the original characters are shuffled to the background in favour of new characters, which is a bit unsettling, but not necessarily a bad thing. The new characters are funny, like plush toys Bunny and Ducky (Key and Peele) and Canadian motorcycle daredevil toy Duke Caboom (a hilarious Keanu Reeves, furthering his Keanuissance this year). They do breathe some new life into things. And man, those ventriloquist dummies are super creepy. They are so well done that you know they had conversations about just how freaky they should be; creepy enough to make even an adult squirm, but not so much that kids will run screaming from the theatre.
Like Woody, has Toy Story 4 outlived the necessity of its existence? It’s debatable, but as the movie shows us, there’s always new life around the corner. And you know what? I don’t care for complaining about sequels and reboots — if they make a good movie, then they’ve made a good movie. And while Toy Story 4 isn’t perfect, it’s a damn fine movie. I took my five-year-old as well, and he loved it.
Toy Story 4 is warm, cute, funny, and emotional. It looks better than it ever has. It’s also somewhat surprisingly, another great end to the series and the story of Woody and the gang (even if they end up making more).