by Edward Baillargeon
In 1995, a little animation studio known as Pixar Animation Studios would revolutionize and change the game for the animation industry with the world’s first fully computer animated feature film known as Toy Story. Not only was it a technical achievement but also a filmmaking achievement with an entertaining story with great performances from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Pixar would continue to hold Toy Story’s legacy with two more sequels in 1999 and 2010 that would get better and better with each succeeding film. At the time, Toy Story 3 had a fantastic conclusion for what is considered one of the greatest trilogies in cinema history next to The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars trilogy. However many people, myself included, did raise our eyebrows upon hearing the announcement of a fourth Toy Storyfilm and if they could still pull off another great film after Toy Story 3’s fantastic ending. But as more trailers came out, the more I would actually warm up and have some excitement for this. So without further ado, this is Toy Story 4.
Some years after Andy gave his toys to Bonnie, Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s toys have enjoyed their time with Bonnie. However, they are faced with a problem when Bonnie creates a new toy from arts and crafts, named Forky; Forky suffers from an extensional crisis about being a toy, which the others try to help him understand how to be a toy. As Bonnie and her parents go on a road trip, Forky escapes and Woody goes to save him, becoming separated from the group near a small town. As Buzz and the others try to help find Woody, Woody finds Bo Peep among other toys in the town’s antique shop, and Bo Peep gives him a new outlook on what being a toy is really about.
After coming out of the theater, I can gladly report that Toy Story 4 actually turned out to be a great movie as well as continuing likely concluding (for real this time) the legacy of the now tetralogy. The story, while it takes a couple of elements from the previous films, is still just as engaging, emotional, and hilarious at the same time. And because this is another Pixar film, it would not hurt to bring some tissues with you in case you are emotionally sensitive to the film’s ending which, without spoiling anything, reaches the same emotional levels of Toy Story 3’s ending. And as always to be expected from Pixar, the animation is top-notch and visually spectacular as the animation keeps getting better with each succeeding film. It’s quite amazing to see how far technology has improved since 1995 and some shots are extremely photorealistic with the textures and lighting of the colorful environments the film takes place in. The score by Randy Newman is fantastically catchy once again as I recognize certain music cues from the previous films giving a nostalgic feel.
While Toy Story is known to have a large and increasingly growing cast of colorful characters, the film mostly focuses on just a couple. Woody, once again fantastically portrayed by Tom Hanks, has a great arc across the film as he is trying to find his new purpose as a toy now that Bonnie has made Forky, who I’ll get to later, and reuniting with Bo Peep makes things even more complicated for him. And speaking of Bo Peep, who hasn’t been in the series since Toy Story 2, she gets quite a character upgrade as she is more of a tough rebel in the real world helping other lost toys, and Annie Potts gives a solid performance. Buzz Lightyear’s role in this feature is a lot more reduced in this film to keep the focus mostly on Woody as he has a running gag that is funny at first but downgrades him as a character, but he still works fine with Tim Allen’s performance making the joke still tolerable. Most of the other returning characters like Rex, Hamm, and the Potato Heads don’t really have a significant role as they only have a few funny jokes and that’s it, but it was not that much of a issue for me.
In regards to the new characters, each of them are fun additions to the story and fantastically portrayed. Starting with Forky, voiced by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, he’s a new toy that Bonnie created from her anxieties from kindergarten orientation as he goes through an existential crisis where he is always questioning Woody why is he alive and his only purpose is the trash. He greatly implements an important theme of finding your purpose and playing an important role in someone’s life. Christina Hendricks does a good job as the main antagonist Gabby Gabby, a doll in an antique store with a broken voice box who just wants to be loved and picked up by an owner, making her a more sympathetic villain than some of the previous villains in the series like Sid, Lotso, and Stinky Pete. And there are some great new comedic scene-stealers in this film as well. They would include Keanu Reeves giving a delightfully hammy performance as Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom who is absolutely hysterical with his posing, and of course comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as carnival plush toys Ducky and Bunny respectively who deliver some great jokes with their proven chemistry.
Overall, Toy Story 4 has proven to continue Pixar’s legacy as the kings of animation and still leaving their crowning franchise untarnished. While there a few minor nitpicks that keep it from being the best in the franchise (which is difficult for me especially when Pixar has made too many great movies to make a full definitive ranking list), it still has a well-executed story, fantastic animation, great characters, and great laughs and tears, this is a great way to, likely for real this time, conclude the series. If you are a fan of the previous Toy Story films or a fan of Pixar, family films, fun comedies, animation, or just looking for a fun time, this is an absolute must watch! It’s not like you have many better options for any of those things if you don’t want to risk leaving disappointed. I do also recommend staying during the credits as there are some great mid-credits scene and a hilarious resolution to a gag from a certain character worth sticking around for. I’m going to give Toy Story 4 a 9/10 with the Edward’s Seal of Approval.