“You are going to help create happy memories that will last for the rest of her life.” – Woody
It’s been nine years since “Toy Story 3” was released and received five Oscar nominations. It won Best Animated Feature Film for Lee Unrich and Best Original Song for Randy Newman. It also earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. It was also one of the best-reviewed films of the year and the consensus was the film would earn that Best Picture nomination. It did.
“Toy Story 3” seemed to wrap up a perfect trilogy with a perfect ending, the perfect farewell. But the new chapter is a much welcome return to revisit these characters who have become like family to us. We’ve grown up with them — it’s been 24 years since they first entered our lives — and we welcome the familiar faces back with open arms. Needless to say, once again, Pixar has outdone itself.
This time the toys wind up going on a road trip, taking us outside of the nursery and into new places, new risks, and thrilling new adventures.
The film opens with a flashback signaling the return of a much-loved character down the road. We’re soon back in the present with Bonnie (Madeline McGraw) about to start pre-school. As we know, the toys often end up in the closet, and Woody is no longer Bonnie’s favorite. But, Woody loves his kid and he knows where his loyalty lies.
When it’s time for Bonnie to start pre-school, she doesn’t want to go. Woody tags along to ensure her first day goes off without a hitch. Bonnie’s first class assignment is a crafts project. Soon enough she’s created Forky (voice by Tony Hale) and he quickly becomes Bonnie’s favorite toy. Except Forky is convinced he’s not a toy. He’s made from a spork, a pipe cleaner, and googly eyes. He thinks he belongs in the trash.
When Bonnie and her family go on a road trip, her toys and Forky come along and the toys are introduced to whole new worlds – a carnival and an antiques mall.
It’s there that Woody runs into Bo Peep (Annie Potts). He has to decide whether to pursue her or rescue Forky and get Forky back to Bonnie.
The heart of “Toy Story 4,” aside from the characters, are its enduring themes of childhood joys, hurdles of maturity, and loss of innocence. The writers have understood that their audience has grown, and that’s what happens in the current storyline. Bo, in her nine years as a lost toy, has grown in fascinating ways. She has been out in the world and in the antiques mall she has a different sense of purpose. Her ambition involves more than a desire to find a kid to play with her. With a team of Pixar women working on Bo behind the creative scenes, her character has been given new strength, self-determination, and a fighting spirit. She’s been out there on her own and she has learned how to survive. Meanwhile, Woody is determined that Forky needs to be with Bonnie because that’s Forky’s purpose.
The introduction of new characters brings new dimensions and plot twists to the expanded “Toy Story” universe. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) is an adorable doll from the ’50s, though we soon see she’s far from perfect. Woody’s instinct is to be wary of her, especially when she gets her hands on Forky, but she has her own agenda. She wants a voice box because hers is defective and if she gets one, she’ll be loved the way she feels she deserves.
Gabby Gabby and her henchmen add a creepy side to the story, since ventriloquist dummies are famously creepy as hell.
To counter that dark side, Duke Caboom is voiced by Keanu Reeves, who is the hottest thing right now and everywhere. He is great. His addition, as well as Ducky and Bunny (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), bring out the hearty belly laughs.
Loyalty and growth are fundamental to the heart of “Toy Story 4.” The meaning of life is an element that’s equally fundamental, one that adults will relate to on a more profound level.
Aside from being visually stunning, creatively outstanding, and bound to become an instant classic, there are so many things that make “Toy Story 4” just heartwarmingly wonderful.
As for its artwork, the technological advances made since “Toy Story 3” are a revelation and groundbreaking. This is where Pixar has always raised the bar and here again it solidifies their reputation as a major game changer when it comes to animation. The fine detail of rain-slick surfaces, the dusty cobwebs, and the endless intricate delights of its production design exceed anything they’ve ever done before. Pixar’s standards are incredibly high, and it’s no surprise that “Toy Story 4” is such a visual feast of spectacular animation. Go back and watch the first “Toy Story” to see how far they’ve progressed in the past three decades — it’s truly remarkable.
“Toy Story 4” has it all: there’s great voice work, effortless wit and humor, and gorgeous animation. It’s a heart-melting fest of a film that will put giddy smiles on the faces of adults and kids alike. We are reminded why this story can offer such unlimited paths to matinee satisfaction. While the advances in animation technology are ever-evolving, “Toy Story 4” never forgets that it all comes down to the honoring core story and respecting the characters we love. When the final credits have rolled – stay for the whole credit sequence!! – you’ll find your hearts feel warmer and your soul feels stronger. It is glorious.
Keep a sharp eye out for Easter eggs galore hidden through the film. They’re among a multitude of pleasures to be found.