Dir: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Joan Cusack, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves
1995. That was the year Disney and Pixar Animation Studios released an animated film that would reshape how the animation movie would be developed. “Toy Story” is a seminal cartoon classic, a film that has aged with the many young people who experienced it first in the 90’s.
For those who may have been children in 1995, the “Toy Story” franchise has been a continuing saga of storytelling; moving cowboy Woody, spaceman Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the toys through the entire childhood of Andy, who grew up and gave his toys to another young person named Bonnie who could restart the journey. It’s an accomplished feat of storytelling, a journey filled with fun adventures, countless laughs, boundless amounts of love, and ageless life lessons.
So, it’s surprising that the tale continues with “Toy Story 4” more than 20 years after the release of the initial film. The quality that exists in this extended story is that many of those young children who first watched “Toy Story” now have the opportunity to take their young children to experience these characters on the big screen again. After the near perfection of “Toy Story 3” it would seem like there is no other way to take the story of Woody and Buzz in a direction that would be satisfying enough to not tarnish the quality of the trilogy that came before it. Worry not, “Toy Story 4” is exactly what you are expecting it will be, but it is also something unexpectedly different in surprising ways.
Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest toys are going on a road trip. But they have a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale), that Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) crafted during her first day at school. The new adventure has Woody taking care of Bonnie’s new favorite toy Forky, who is consistently trying to escape. During the journey, however, Woody has an unexpected reunion with a long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and encounters a new toy named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who has devious plans.
Pixar has crafted these animated worlds with such precision and meticulous detail that it’s starting to blur the visual lines between what is real and what is manufactured. A colorful carnival at night with glistening and glowing lights, a dusty antique store filled with cobwebs and creepy ventriloquist dolls, and an aggressive feline who purrs as honest as it hisses are exceptionally composed works of animation. It’s simply beautiful to see these worlds operate.
“What happens when playtime is over”? This narrative theme plays throughout the film, specifically with the character of Woody who has been replaced, almost completely, as the favorite toy of Bonnie’s. The story does a nice job of leaving the home, building a fun road trip adventure that veers in and out of situations with old friends while supplying new friends to fill some necessary spaces for Woody’s character development.
It’s within the journey of Woody and the new struggle he is having with the relationship of his purpose as a toy that the most interesting elements of “Toy Story 4” begin to take shape. It’s reflective and somewhat melancholic in a way that connects on numerous levels for viewers who grew up with the content but also for those new to the story. That’s the joy of good storytelling, it connects with people in different and unique ways. Whether the elements related to understanding the role parents have when adapting to the maturation of children or the aspect of being brave while understanding fear for young children, it’s a nice composition.
The “Toy Story” franchise has been around for a long time. Children have grown into teenagers who have grown into adults and may have young children of their own now, that’s the best part of having this new tale available now, as an opportunity to experience cinema together as a family. “Toy Story 4” is a film you may not have wanted, but rest assured it’s a film that you will be happy you got.
4.25 out of 5.00