EMOTIONS! Yes, Pixar is back on their bullshit again, and you better believe you will cry or you will die trying. “Toy Story 4”, or what I have dubbed “Toy Story IV: The Quest for Peace”, is the fourth time Pixar has hit us with this story about the life of toys, a journey of self-realization, and their struggle to come to grips with their place in a world that considers them lifeless husks of plastic, all while ignoring the fact that iPads exist and kids now have electronics to have imaginations for them. But instead of giving fan favorites Jessie and Buzz much to do, this story is about Woody (Tom Hanks), the homicidal control-freak from the original, and his sole responsibility of keeping Forky (Tony Hale) from committing suicide by constantly jumping out of moving vehicles. You know, a kids’ movie.
Forky is a toy made by Bonnie in the first day of kindergarten out of someone else’s chewed gum and used spork. Through the power of a child’s wondrous imagination, life is breathed into his inanimate corpse and he rises into the world of the living only to discover that his life is suffering because he rightly believes himself to be disposable trash. I actually found him hilarious as a character. His constant craving for death and is nativity are ripe for a brilliant wit that spawns plenty of laughs throughout the film. But his presence raises a bevy of questions that can melt your brain, primarily: if Forky is only alive because he is considered a toy, then can’t anything and everything be alive as well? He is literally living garbage. Just draw a face on a gun and now we have a problem. And what about toys of the adult variety? I bet they’ve seen some shit… Thanks for that Pixar.
Maybe I have taken too deep of a dive into the implications of the film and the philosophical impact it would have on our reality. I have been known to treat whimsical subjects a bit too seriously from time to time. But I do not see how a question can be raised and I am not expected to create a “Beautiful Mind” conspiracy theory board of newspaper cutouts and string. Frankly, I think it is Pixar’s fault to assume that lunatics like me would not take the time to explore these questions. But anyway, I digress…
Like Forky, there are several other new characters that command most of the screen time. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) continues the franchise’s trend of antagonists that have an unfair existence and sympathetic motivations. Bunny and Ducky give us some great Key & Peele banter, especially when they are interacting with Buzz. But the greatest new character is Duke Caboom: Canada’s Greatest Stuntman, played by the breathtaking Keanu Reeves. He is just such a ridiculous character, simultaneously going through traumatic episodes of PTSD and Canadian patriotism. His encouraging motto of “Yes I Canada!” should be put on the Canadian dollar bill.
When it comes down to it, these films are really about Woody first and foremost, and a major focal point of the film is Woody’s relationship with Bo Peep (Annie Potts). This is a dynamic that has been teased since the original film but now it has become a central focus. Bo has grown vastly more independent since the early days of the franchise and she shepherds Woody along this journey. While the idea of two toys sharing a mutual romantic interest in one another is certainly progressive, I found Bo’s mentorship to Woody to be way more impactful. She is the catalyst that helps his character grow and fosters a major change in the status quo.
“Toy Story 4” is a quality film that delivers on humor and emotions, and will be enjoyed by children and adults. Having said that, I felt that mildly underwhelmed at times, likely as a result of fatigue from the franchise. There is nothing specifically I can point to that makes this movie lesser or greater than any of its predecessors, and if you are one who does not feel any drag from seeing yet another “Toy Story” movie, then more power to you. It is another good, solid movie in a franchise that consistently delivers a quality product.
I give “Toy Story 4” a solid yet familiar 8.5 out of 10
Directed by: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves
Runtime: 1 Hour and 40 Minutes