You would think that ‘Toy Story 4’ was nothing more than a pointless cash grab, but in the case of this continuation of a sweet conclusion to a trilogy, you would be surprised. ‘Toy Story’ is Pixar’s most beloved and meaningful of its properties. Not only did it put Pixar on the map and pave the way for computer animation to be the new norm, it also manages to appeal to both children and adults. Just the name “Toy Story” alone is enough to bring joy into the hearts of those who hear it being mentioned. To ruin such a beloved trilogy for the sake of money and merchandising is basically a crime against humanity. Thankfully, ‘Toy Story 4’ still has enough heart to keep the franchise alive.
When we last left Woody (Voice of Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Voice of Tim Allen), Jessie (Voice of Joan Cusack) and friends, their owner, Andy, was on his way to college, but not before dropping his beloved toys to a little girl named Bonnie (Voice of Madeleine McGraw), asking her to take care of his toys for him with Woody saying “So long, partner.” It was a sweet moment that left many in the theater with tears in their eyes and a farewell in their hearts. Now with Bonnie as their new owner (and the massive success of the previous installment), it looked like the possibilities were endless with new stories to tell (mostly in the form of either short films shown before the movie, or TV specials), a continuation seemed inevitable.
In ‘Toy Story 4’, we see that the toys have adjusted to their new life with Bonnie, with her name being on the boots of both Woody and Buzz. Though, she is now ready to start kindergarten, and like most kids, she is scared and anxious to go to school for the first time. However, in comes Sheriff Woody to save the day, as he sneaks into her backpack to make sure she adjusts to her first day with ease. When all else fails, with some quick thinking, Woody grabs a Popsicle stick, a spork, a pipe cleaner, and some clay, all without miraculously being seen and puts them on Bonnie’s desk. That’s when she comes up with a new toy she calls “Forky” (Voice of Tony Hale). For some reason, Forky comes to life, and questions his own existence as a toy; thinking his only purpose is to be just a utensil made for the trash after use, as we see him try-and-fail to put himself in every trashcan he can get close to; with Woody, knowing how important that little spork with an existential crisis is to Bonnie, trying to stop him from doing that.
One day, Bonnie’s parents (Voices of Jay Hernandez and Lori Alan) decide to take her on a road trip along with her toys, and of course, an adventure takes place once Forky makes a break for it out of the family RV causing Woody to run after him. Their journey leads them to an antique shop where a Chatty Cathy-esque doll named Gabby Gabby (Voice of Christina Hendricks) and her ventriloquist dummy cohorts reside; and a carnival where Woody runs into his old flame Bo Peep (Voice of Annie Potts), who has a bit of an edge to her since her departure.
The adventure may not be as big when compared to the first three films, but with each installment, Pixar’s animation has increased to the point where it feels almost realistic. It is also nice to see old characters back again, though the side toys are not given as much as a funny line. The biggest development is that of Bo, who is fleshed out more, and given more to do than just being a flirtatious and playful love interest for Woody to blush over. She has seen a lot of the outside world, and is ready to take on challenges most toys are afraid to take, making her a major character than she previously was.
Besides Forky and Gabby Gabby, new toys are especially a welcome addition, though they could have failed. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele bring their comedic chemistry straight from their sketch series (You know which one I’m talking about) as Ducky and Bunny, respectively. They are two plush animals you can win at the carnival who desperately are waiting for a kid to win them until Buzz foils their plans. While it is also great to see Keanu Reeves flexing his voice acting skills as a Canadian daredevil action figure named Duke Kaboom, who has a backstory as funny as it is tragic.
Animation and comedy may be a part of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, but it is the heart and meaning that keep the franchise running. The majority can keep you laughing, only to break your heart make it hard to say goodbye once the film comes to a close. It is clear that Pixar understands its audience and knows what people love about these movies. ‘Toy Story 4’ is like a compliment from a friend you barely talk to, we never knew if we really needed it, but we are grateful it happened. Whether a new installment comes along, or this is officially the end, ‘Toy Story’ will be with us…. to infinity and beyond.