When telling my nana my plans to see “Toy Story 4” this past weekend, her initial response was to lecture me on how I should stay in the back of the theater away from children, so I wouldn’t look as if I were a pedophile. But, after a long and strenuous conversation, I was eventually able to convince her that Disney and Pixar made this movie for me and my generation.
The franchise, which began in 1995, has been with me throughout my entire existence – literally. Being born in 1996, I remember watching the first two movies over and over again with my younger brother for most of our childhood. I can remember going to McDonald’s repeatedly just to get “Toy Story 2” toys in a Happy Meal, trying to collect them all. But most recently, I remember being a senior in high school about to graduate and go off to college in the same month of the release of “Toy Story 3,” and having the character of Andy about to venture off on the same journey that I was about to undergo. As much as this film is labeled a “children’s film,” there is nothing to persuade me that this fourth installment was made for my age group.
Luckily, and surprisingly, I was actually the youngest person in the theater when I did see the movie.
Beginning with a flashback to nine years before the start of the fourth film, the movie opens with an explanation of Bo Peep’s (Annie Potts) disappearance. Bo Peep, for some reason, was not in the third film, but we never got a reason why. Now we learn that Andy’s younger sister grew too old for the porcelain figure and gave her away to another child never to be seen again.
Now we return to our present time, where all of the toys are with their new child, Bonnie. Bonnie is about to begin kindergarten and is absolutely terrified. The toys try to console her, but her fear of going to school overpowers any solace. But, when getting to school for her orientation, Bonnie’s fear is quickly turned to joy after making a new friend – literally.
Forky (Tony Hale) comes to life after Bonnie creates the new character using popsicle sticks, clay, pipe cleaners, googly-eyes and a spork. But, being as he was made from unusual supplies, the character thinks that he is trash and repeatedly attempts to throw himself away.
Seeing how important the spork is to Bonnie, the rest of her toys begin their new task of keeping Forky out of the trash. Woody (Tom Hanks), the main protagonist and Andy’s favorite toy, is not one of Bonnie’s favorites and he begins feeling purposeless. Seeing Forky make Bonnie so happy, he volunteers to lead the charge in keeping Forky away from the garbage.
But when Bonnie’s parents surprise her with a road trip, the toys find the mission of keeping Forky safe harder than expected after he jumps out of the RV window. Woody, realizing that the next stop is only about five miles away, jumps after the spork in an effort to return him before Bonnie realizes that he is missing.
On their journey back to Bonnie, chaos, of course, ensues and the characters find their voyage harder than expected after meeting Gabby Gaby (Christina Hendricks), an older doll with a broken voice box who just wants a child of her own. Thinking that she is unwanted because of her broken voice box, she quickly realizes that Woody has a working one and makes it her sole mission to steal his. Eventually coming across his former friend Bo Peep, Woody gets her to enlist on the journey.
A film that continues the stories of our beloved characters is one to see this summer – if not for story, go for the fun. The funniest of the four, the latest installment brings a mix of comedy from an eclectic mix of new toys.
From Forky, the suicidal spork; Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), the failed Canadian stunt devil; Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki), the pint-sized police officer; to Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), the absolutely psychotic and hilarious stuffed animal duo, the movie leaves you laughing the entire time.
An aspect of the movie that was truly amazing was the advancement of the animation. If you were to compare this movie with the first chapter, which came out almost 25 years ago, it is really astounding to see how far Pixar has come. You would have never known that Bo Peep was a porcelain figurine because there was never that kind of detail. Now, you can see the light shining off of the face of the character and every single stitch that went into her clothing.
The humans in the movie were so lifelike. You could make out every single strand of hair on each person’s head and even see the eyelashes protruding from each eyelid. Pixar really outdid itself.
But I would be beside myself if I didn’t have a single gripe about the film… Where were the Little Green Men? The little group of squeaky aliens were barely in the movie. We see them off to the side and never hear from them once. How can we have a “Toy Story” film without a single “Oooooooooooo”? My favorite characters pushed aside for new toys. Maybe the new movie was made for the new generation?
Ken Downey Jr. is the Features Editor for Time OFF and Packet Publications. This is a part of his series of weekly columns focusing on arts and entertainment. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.