It’s important to have purpose in life…
Yeah, the cynic in me wanted to feel like Toy Story 4 was just going to be an unrepentant cash grab but if you can over look some bumpy road in the first act of the film, it may actually just be the best installment of this entire iconic franchise.
Woody (Tom Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (Tony Hale) declares himself as “trash” and not a toy, Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family’s road trip excursion, Woody ends up on an unexpected detour that includes a reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts). After years of being on the outside as a “lost toy”, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries.
Just when we thought we we’re out, they found away to pull us back in because Toy Story 4 is an honest evolution of the characters and it presents us a narrative that isn’t jokey or forced and makes total sense.
Director Josh Cooley steps into the feature director’s chair for the very first time and navigates something that could have been an absolute disaster from a story standpoint. With a whopping EIGHT writers sharing ‘story by’ and ‘screenplay’ credits in some shape or form that is usually a recipe for disaster as that many cooks in the kitchen will usually in one hell of a mess, but we successfully sidestepped that here once everything gets established.
Once it gets into the meat of the story, there’s real flow to it all as we get an adventure that is not only buyable for kids, but also has some genuine life lessons to go along with it. It’s incredibly deft at handling some very complex subject matter in a fashion that won’t go over the heads of an age in the audience; it’s the epitome of poignancy and a party all wrapped up in one because where we all undoubtedly felt like Pt.3 was the end of the road for these stories, Pt. 4 puts a fork in the road for audiences not only so they can have some closure but maybe anticipate what’s to come.
The animation quality has improved by leaps and bounds since the early films and even look more amazing then they already do. Even if you are seeing this film in 2D, the animation has just gotten so good that the characters simply jump off the screen, and while we get to see all of the old gang again this film ultimately belongs to our favourite trusted sheriff.
As Woody, Tom Hanks has managed to transcend a generation of fans, as crazy as it is to believe there are no doubt some kids who ONLY associate to him as Woody. Here he is dealing with a crisis; he simply doesn’t get played with anymore by Bonnie and can’t deal with an existence (especially after Andy) where he isn’t needed. It’s a very grown up concept to understand; how we evolve as people and our roles in life changed (even when we don’t want them to) but Hanks navigates the material seamlessly and we get so invested in his ‘crise de coeur’.
Reconnecting him with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was a master stroke and she acts as his anchor while he’s on the brink of a genuine emotional breakdown. Together they work wonders and Bo cares the movie as the empowered female action star that all young girls should hope to be. I don’t doubt that somewhere Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver would be proud to see Bo, kicking butt and taking names.
The new characters of Bunny & Ducky (Jordan Peele & Keegan Michael Key) brings some much needed deadpan hilarity to proceedings while Forky is great example of how to come to something with just the right amount of blankness and emotional baggage to make him a hero to kids looking to find their way in life.
Christina Hendricks is absolutely inspired as Gabby Gabby; a toy left on the shelf just a little TOO long and Keanu Reeves cements his legacy as a Canadian National Treasure with his turn as Canadian stunt man Duke Caboom and it’s nice to see a character from our own country in a big movie like this which is intelligently stereotypical, instead of saying ‘eh’ too much and asking where the next Tim Horton’s is.
Ultimately Toy Story 4 all comes down to the interplay between Woody and Forky because even though they are both incredibly different in so many ways, they both are looking for a reason and dare I say a purpose to fulfill, be it for the first time or for something that’s actually in service for themselves. It’s a life lesson of learning how to adapt to ups and downs of everyday existence and once it gets into the meat of its message, it’s undoubtedly one off the best things we’ve seen so far in 2019.
- Release Date: 6/21/2019