Memorable characters are one thing, but being relatable is just as important (if not more so). This is one of the main reasons why the Toy Story films have been so effective for nearly a quarter century. Like The Godfather, Star Wars, and films in the MCU (not to mention other Pixar films), the characters of Toy Story are ones we relate to, and are all around timeless. Just like a toy is to our inner child. This makes all the events of the fourth installment all the more powerful, and even sometimes poignant.
Like many, I too was hesitant to hear there would be a fourth film for Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang, especially after the emotional climax of the third film. Still, this revisitation is another knockout. When it is discovered that the toy’s new owner Bonnie (Madeleine McCraw) is about to start kindergarten, she (literally) makes a new friend in class out of a spork, naming him Forky (a wonderfully casted Tony Hale). Woody is doing all he can to make sure Bonnie is happy (despite no longer being the favorite toy) and makes sure that Forky is aware of the fact that he can be more than just “trash.”
On a road trip, Woody and Forky are separated from the rest, and wind up in an antique shop. In a rather dark and creepy situation (the music used was the same used during The Shining), they come across Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), an old doll that reminded me of the classic Talky Tina from the “Living Doll” Episode of the old school Twilight Zone. She is set on getting Woody’s voice box (her own is busted). Woody eventually teams up with his old friend (and flame) Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who was given away in-between the second and third film. Meanwhile, Buzz has set out to help Woody despite having trouble listening to his “inner voice”.
While other old characters have returned (Joan Cusack as Jessie, Pixar vet John Ratzenberger’s Hamm, Wallace Shawn’s Rex, Kristen Schaal’s Trixie, Bonnie Hunt’s Dolly, and the late great comic Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head), we still get a good amount of new characters. The duo of Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key nail it as Bunny and Ducky (respectively), two stuffed animals tied at the hand who have spent their lives on the wall of a carnival game. Still, perhaps the best new cast member is Keanu Reeves as Duke Kaboom, a daredevil motorcycle stunt toy from Canada (“Yes I Can-ada!”).
Without giving anything away, I will mention that the film manages to deliver more than a good share of laughs and cries (more on the ending in a bit). It delivers a sense of redemption and closure with it’s characters. It reminds us that certain paths in life that take longer to travel then others. It reminded me of one of my favorite verses: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
Parents, I imagine this is one of those animated movies you would be taking your kids to, not them asking you to take them to. Aside from some of the darker moments (including ventriliquist dummies) mentioned already, the film is fine for kids.
Now about the last half hour or so of the film. I read recently that Tom Hanks and Tim Allen each had to record the lines of the last scene away from other cast and crew due to getting too emotional. Being that I cried till I pulled up to my driveway on the way home, I would think this is accurate. If you thought the last half hour of Avengers: Endgame was a tough cry, wait till the last half hour of Toy Story 4.