When Toy Story 4 was announced, many fans have also been speculating on what worth would a fourth film have following the conclusion of Toy Story 3 with Andy’s time now having come to an end. But of course with the stakes having been raised incredibly high up by Toy Story 3, the initial proposal of Toy Story 4 as a romantic comedy with Woody and Bo Peep would already have been met with negative feedback, even after her absence in Toy Story 3. But nevertheless, the film had came around anyway and maybe there’s so much more that we can imagine to what it feels like to be a toy than simply being passed around from Andy to Bonnie at the very end of Toy Story 3? With all of this being set in mind, there’s no way that Toy Story 4 should work as well as it does but it still finds itself a worthy entry into Pixar’s long-running saga, and as a way for them to bookend the decade, just as they started it off with Toy Story 3, it feels more than just satisfying enough. I’m still left wondering what more could an entry like this have done in the grand scheme of things but if this is how the Toy Story series finally must come to its own conclusion, I’m more than fine with it.
A single year has passed since Andy has passed on the toys from Andy to Bonnie. For all this time, Woody has always sought himself as being meant to provide children with the happiness that they seek during the peak of their youth, like a good parent would. When Bonnie heads to school, she creates a new toy she calls “Forky” (Tony Hale) out of a plastic spork that comes to life. Forky, not feeling like he fits in with the rest of Bonnie’s toys, or believing himself not to be a toy despite Bonnie seeing him as far more than what he is, ends up bringing Woody along with him for another means of looking at the world he knew after throwing himself out of a van during a road trip, where Woody runs into familiar faces too, such as Bo Peep. But after having not seen Bo for so long, Woody is given a whole new perspective on what more is in store for him as a toy, without even needing the company of Andy after he’s already moved on from him. After having finished up one journey over a period that was covered by the past three films, it’s clear enough that Woody sees himself as being meant for so much more than what was already presented to him, for as belated as this sequel may be it still has the capacity to grow into much greater proportions.
Like all the past films, Toy Story 4 remains commendable as ever for showing that the world of the toys can only seem so much more vast despite how largely familiar it may be to our eyes. But nevertheless, like seeing the whole world for yourself, Toy Story 4 doesn’t only show that the experience of seeing something new would be one that changes your outlook on life for the better. As more adventures come and go at many different points of our lives we also run into old friends along the way too, take moments to see how they’ve changed since our last encounter – then realize what they’ve accomplished while they were missing us in that amount of time. As admirable a move it may be to see how Woody can see what more he was meant for with seeing what Bo Peep has become in the years of her absence from his life, especially noting her absence in Toy Story 3, trying to figure out what his life really means because he’s a toy. It’s thoughtful, like Pixar is at their best, but knowing how they seek to take these films too is more than enough to solidify their long-lasting appeal.
New characters like Forky and Gabby Gabby are fun whenever they take the screen, and as usual for a Pixar film, the animation is stunning as ever – especially the improvements upon the technology between this film and the original. But even as voice actors like Tony Hale, Ally Maki, Christina Hendricks, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, and Keanu Reeves are giving the parts their all, there’s something else that feels missing from Toy Story 4. Of course, one can always rely on Tom Hanks to be as likeable a presence as ever as Woody, but with him and Bo Peep leading the way for this fourth entry it also seems to have come all at the expense of the gang that we’ve stuck around with for so long. This doesn’t feel so much like a Toy Story film in that it’s about how the gang bands together but it’s solely a journey for Woody and no one else, and even Buzz Lightyear doesn’t even have all that much to do. As a matter of fact, Buzz Lightyear having dumbed himself down to becoming the butt of the joke never felt right either – for even his phase in which he thought was a space ranger still offered a sense of depth into what he was meant for during his time spent with Woody.
Despite this, there’s a lot to admire about what it is that Woody’s overall arc leads up to, especially when he knows that his time with an owner was never going to last forever. But perhaps the nicest turn presented here with their newer characters here is the villainous role of Gabby Gabby, introduced fittingly through a reference to The Shining before we also listen to her tragic backstory. It’s a nice change of pace for Pixar’s previous villains, because of how sympathetic she happens to be the whole time (all she wanted was a fixed voice box for the purpose of being played with), thus her own role as a villain can be up for debate too. Christina Hendricks’s voice is always lovely to listen to, but it’s nice to see a family film that features an antagonistic presence who isn’t so much of a villain – which so many more family films can learn from too, because an evil presence isn’t necessary to create a compelling story arc (among many things that I’ve appreciated about Inside Out, which is arguably the studio’s best work after their string of consistency had come to a halt).
Every Toy Story film following the first has always peaked with their more emotional moments and the ways in which the films have matured in the years between each new film. Perhaps this was the only way to go, but it still feels like there’s something empty – even for as sad as the film’s final sequence happens to be. But with that having been said, I don’t see the necessity for Pixar to bring yet another sequel to the table as we already had a proper finish with Toy Story 3 nine years ago. But if this was the way in which Pixar had wanted to bookend the decade, knowing that there’s nowhere else for the story to go, and that it’ll go having left behind a long legacy of great films, I’m more than satisfied. If anything, it feels more than fitting to end off with Woody being able to watch over everything good that he’s done for us over the years, because he’ll forever remain an important part of our memories – for infinity and beyond. For all I know, I’ll just remain thankful to have grown up on these movies because they’ve always remained an important part of my life and will still stick around as such.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Josh Cooley
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom
Produced by Jonas Rivera, Mark Nielsen
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Running Time: 100 minutes