Directed by Josh Cooley
Written by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom (story by 6,453 other people)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Keanu Reeves, and Keanu Reeves
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA rating G for Gosh this movie is Good
by Jaime Davis, The Fixer
When the teaser trailer for Toy Story 4 hit last year people thought it was super cute and all but the next thing that would come out their mouths was, “Why?” The third installment of the hit Pixar franchise wrapped up with what felt like a lovely closure for the series: Woody and Company were donated into the hands of young Bonnie after their previous kid, Andy grew up and moved on. If you were anything like me at the end of Toy Story 3, you were 1. absolutely shook and 2. wiping tears from your eyes as you left the theater. But still…why? Why was this made? Do we really need it? What purpose does Toy Story 4 serve?
It’s the latter question our hero, Woody (Tom Hanks) faces in the latest iteration of the franchise. What happens when we’re no longer deemed necessary? When we’re considered obsolete? How does it make us feel? How do we process it? More importantly, what actions do we take, rationally or irrationally, to compensate for our feelings? Like what if you’re a parent and your child graduates college and starts working their first job, starting their journey in a new city…maybe you feel like they don’t need you as much anymore. Or maybe you used to be a high flyer at work but all of a sudden a newbie comes and takes your spot as golden worker bee? Or you could be a regular toy in a regular toy world, usually the number one plaything in your kid’s eyes, but now you’re relegated to the closet more regularly than you’d like to admit to yourself. What happens then?
In Toy Story 1-3, Woody is top banana in the toy chest. Head honcho. HTIC. He’s the ringleader of Buzz and Jessie and Dolly and Trixie and Rex and Hamm and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and Mr. Pricklepants and Slinky Dog because he’s always front and center for the action; he’s the one who brings everyone together for the greater good – to keep their kid, Andy, happy. Once passed along to new kid Bonnie, Andy is cool for a minute but lately he’s been spending more quality time with the sad closet toys, even collecting his first dust bunny…gasp! Andy’s response is to not let this stand. He needs to be indispensable, so he situates himself right into Bonnie’s daily life, sneaking into her bookbag just in time for kindergarten orientation.
Bonnie’s introduction to school doesn’t start off very well, and she finds herself alone at a table with zero craft supplies to make the project assigned by her teacher. Andy witnesses all of this and insinuates himself right into the middle of things, going so far as to dig some popsicle sticks, crayons, and pipe cleaners out of the trash so Bonnie will have something to use. Little does Woody know he’s aided Bonnie in the architecture of her new favorite toy: Forky, an anxiety-riddled spork who believes he has more in common with the trash than with the toys around him. Bonnie, feeling insecure in her new environment, forms a serious attachment to her lil sporky friend. And since Woody has no other role to play now that he’s so 2000 and late, he makes it his mission to make sure that nothing happens to Forky. Woody insists it’s all for Bonnie’s benefit, but our intrepid toy friends know something else is up.
And that brings us to the heart of the story – this is a road movie, you guys! Bonnie’s family decides to go on a little RV road trip vacation with the toys in tow. Forky, at this point, is still unsure of his existence and necessity on this Earth; he doesn’t see the bigger picture or fully understand his place in Bonnie’s orbit. In a moment of particular anxiety, he flees the RV so suddenly that Woody’s only option is to go after him, setting a quick rendezvous with Buzz to meet up at the RV park later. When Woody finds and retrieves a shaken Forky, they head out for the meeting spot. Along the way Woody breaks down the meaning of life for Forky, a Toy’s Life, told over a precious little montage that sees the two bonding in the cutest way imaginable for a cowboy doll and plastic eating utensil.
And they’re just about to meet up with everyone successfully, that you’re like oh movie over!…but…it’s not. On their way to the RV they walk past an antique store with a very peculiar lamp in the window, one that Woody recognizes instantly as belonging to…Bo Peep (Annie Potts)! Remember her? She played a minor role in Toy Story 1 and 2 and was kinda like a mini love interest for Woody. Toy Story 4 actually opens in the past, explaining how Bo originally left the toys behind. Woody, thinking he’s in for a quick reunion with an old flame, snags Forky into the store where they encounter Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a cunning doll with a sinister plot to rid Woody of his still-working voice box. See, Gabby Gabby’s was damaged when she was made, and she thinks it’s why she’s never had a kid of her own to play with. She rules the antique store with an iron fist, with the help of her ventriloquist dummies who are not a bit creepy at all (nah, they’re pretty friggin creepy, especially for a Pixar film).
You can imagine that yes, Bo shows up and is just the sort of action-y hero this film needs to give it a bit of a boost – she rescues our duo from the clutches of Gabby Gabby, eventually, but a lotta other stuff happens first! Toy world is e-x-c-i-t-i-n-g! They encounter some fun new pals like Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki), a type of Polly Pocket-esque plaything, Ducky and Bunny, two of the funniest bickering stuffed animals like, ever (Key and Peele), and Duke Caboom, voiced by the incomparable Keanu Reeves. Keanu couldn’t be any hotter right now, what with that teensy, unforgettable role as a douchebag version of himself in Always Be My Maybe and as badass John Wick in the recent release of John Wick 3. Witnessing Duke Caboom’s tragic backstory was my favorite part of the film, making me giggle uncontrollably (Canadians may not find it as funny, and for that I apologize in advance).
Along the way, Woody glimpses how Bo’s life has changed now that she’s a full-on “lost toy,” a connotation which carries a heavy stigma in toy world. At first he’s worried for her, but Bo is happy, content…she’s adventurous and spunky and knows who she is and what she wants from her life. Can Woody say the same? The ending of Toy Story 4 is beyond satisfying and tear-inducing (jeesh, Pixar give my tear ducts a break), with even more closure than the third installment. It’s fulfilling on a variety of levels in a way that will be pleasing to well, just about everyone. Oh! And stay a bit through the credits for the cutest little Forky epilogue ever.