Movie review: Toy Story 4

June 26, 2019

‘TOY Story’ started as a franchise in 1995 with the first movie, a computer animated film that says that all toys have a life of their own and come alive when humans are not around them. It introduced the cowboy Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) and the spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) who become rivals for the attention of their boy owner, Andy. Several other toys in their group were also introduced. It was a big hit so it’s not surprising to become a franchise.

‘Toy Story 2’‘, where Woody was stolen by a toy collector and rescued by Buzz and their friends, was shown in 1999.  ‘Toy Story 3’ where Woody and friends are donated to a day care center because Andy has grown up and is going to college was shown in 2010. And now, we have the latest installment, ‘Toy Story 4’, all produced by Pixar Studios for Disney. An entire generation has really grown up with Woody and friends.

‘Toy Story 3’ ends with Andy leaving his toys to a girl, Bonnie, who’s happy to accept them. ‘Toy Story 4’ now starts with Bonnie going to kindergarten school for the first time. She’s scared and Woody believes it’s a toy’s duty to be with its owner so he hides in Bonnie’s backpack to accompany her to school. He then helps her create a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale), made from a plastic fork and other items.

Bonnie falls in love with her self-made toy immediately and Woody then assigns himself to be Forky’s personal guardian. But Forky insists he’s not a toy and he is more of trash can so he keeps on throwing himself into the garbage can. When Bonnie’s family go on vacation, Forky escapes and Woody then pursues him to bring him back to Bonnie to the tune of the song “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away”. But it’s not as outstanding as “When She Loved Me” in “Toy Story 2” by Cowgirl Jesse (Joan Cusack) that was even nominated in the Oscar Awards.

Woody and Forky stray into an antique store where Woody meets anew his love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who has become an independent adventurer helping lost toys. Bo Peep now has her own sidekick, a small doll called Giggle MacDimples who sits on her shoulder like Pawny in “MIB International”. She is now very self sufficient, moving around in a motorized skunk toy and taking care of her three-headed pet sheep called Billy, Goat and Gruff.

A sinister doll named Gabby (Christina Hendricks) befriends Woody, but her real goal is to steal Woody’s voice box after her own got broken and no child wanted her when she’s supposed to be a talking doll. She looks like a cousin of Annabelle from “The Conjuring” universe, along with her scary henchmen that look like ventriloquist puppets. They kidnap Forky and Woody would not leave him behind. Buzz comes along to help Woody, plus new toys like the stuffed toys Ducky and Bunny (Jordan Peele and Keegan Key), and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), a Canadian motorycyle stuntman ala-Evel Knievel.

Things get from bad to worse and Woody willingly gives up his voice box to Gabby in exchange for Forky’s freedom. Gabby thinks the store owner’s granddaughter, Harmony, will now like her but she is rejected, until a lost black girl sees her and adopts her. Woody, in turn, decides to just stay with Bo to help lost toys find new owners. In the epilogue, we see Bonnie now in first grade, creating a love interest for Forky with a plastic knife called Knifey.

One thing with “TS4” is that it’s more slow moving than the previous three films which are more fast paced. There are laughs but not as many and as effective than the earlier films. There are many “laylay and boringa” portions. Actually, the main narrative is recycled from the past ones, about a toy who is lost and the child who should be spared from losing it while the toys themselves them get to feel more acutely of their own mortality and they’re really disposable for a child.

This makes Forky’s existential musings truly valid: he knows what he really is and that he has actually fulfilled his real purpose and has become trash. We’ve learned to love Woody and the other toys but it’s really time to say goodbye. Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow, but the film now offers a graceful exit and it’s really time to go. Even if “TS4” is a big hit, no more sequels, please, since you’ve already earned so much from it anyway.