‘Toy Story 4’ Review

The long anticipated fourth installment of Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story franchise is finally in theaters for all to see. As a life-long Toy Story fan, I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity to watch the first showing of Toy Story 4 in my town. Usually, I find that attempting to sum up a film in one word is extremely difficult. Pixar’s latest film, however, is as simple as can be, “Perfect.” To write a review of Toy Story 4 that does the film the justice it deserves, this review will be broken up into two, easily identifiable sections. The first section will be a spoiler-free review of the film, while the second will delve deep into the film’s story and messages.

Spoiler-Free Section

The film starts out yanking at the heartstrings and nostalgia of every adult in the theater, and from there, it only gets better. But first, one cannot look past the animation and progression of the story set up in the first few minutes. Right off the bat you can tell a lot of heart was poured into everything you see on screen. The art is fantastic, with each shot perfectly executed, as if there were some animated world that director Josh Cooley found a way to insert a camera into. From character design to the most minute aspect of the background, not a pixel was out of place.

There were, however, notable changes, or rather advancements, to some sequences that depict images previously seen before. As this is the spoiler-free section of this review, there will be no further discussion of these aspects of the film here. Do understand, though, that these changes bear no consequences for the film, as they were long past due. Technology changes every day, and creative leeway must also be granted for filmmakers stepping into an already-established franchise to tell their stories in full. These changes are not only justified, but about time to take advantage of the advancement of technologies.

The story, unlike what one may expect when a studio announces a fourth installment nearly a decade later, was phenomenal. Each central character is given their own story and arc that is followed through to a warmly-welcomed completion. The overall narrative leaves no loose ends, and opens up a whole new world, so much larger than what one may have expected leaving 2010’s Toy Story 3. It’s gripping, compelling, and truly makes you consider what life is all about.

Dozens of laughs fill the film, none of which feel forced or unnecessary. While the majority come from the two newcomer toys Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key, a fellow Penn State alum) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), the long-known toys offer plenty of enjoyment and numerous chuckles throughout their appearances. Just because it’s a film whose core demographic is children does not mean there is not also some humor tossed in here and there for the parents’ entertainment.

The toy’s “new” owner, as we were introduced to in Toy Story 3, is none other than the little sweetheart Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). Unlike the previous installments, this film not only aims to tell the story of the toys, but also Bonnie’s, allowing the audience to bond with, and feel sympathy toward, the human owner of the toys. Her character arc, as the first to be discussed here, is nothing short of adorable and perfection. While it is not as large as some other characters’, such as Woody’s, it is still worth noting.

Woody, as I just previously stated, has a huge character arc. His role throughout the film is crucial to the whole story, all the while setting him up for monumental change. Watching the original Toy Story all those years ago, I never would have imagined that a toy would have given the world such an icon that I would consider having gone through so much over his four-movie story. Tom Hanks gives the audience a heartfelt voice performance, with each line being fantastically read.

Buzz Lightyear, portrayed by Tim Allen, offers tons of laughs, and deep, intimate moments throughout the film. The character’s heroism shines through the story, with his own arc for the film ending on a wonderfully positive note. Going into the theater, I truly believed that in some way the story would painfully be a let down for one of the two iconic friends, but I was (happily) wrong. Buzz’s lines cut deep, and his motivations never fail to ensure the mission is complete.

And finally, the one character that I never thought would have such a great story, is Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. The opening minutes of the film drastically changed the character from her previous iterations, and set Bo Peep up for a great story. From there, everything takes off. Gone is the Bo Peep we thought we knew, instead replaced by an awesome, talented, well-rounded Bo Peep that leads Woody and Buzz on the adventure of a toy’s lifetime. Proving herself to be the necessary leader, she never loses sight of who her friends are, and what is truly important.

The introduction of the film’s new “villain,” Gabby Gabby, is amazing. Right off the bat, Christina Hendrick’s performance as the doll sets the tone for her character, whose motivations are genuine and understandable, rather than a straw man-like reason to be the toys’ adversary. Gabby Gabby’s story is a sad one, and throughout the film, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this lost toy. Her arc is completed in a way that only a Toy Story film could pull off, and it is wonderful.

Ultimately, we are left with Forky, the latest new toy of Bonnie’s, voiced by Tony Hale. Having been created during the film by Bonnie, Forky is newly-born, allowing for fantastic dialogue between himself and the other characters. Basically, he was born yesterday, but very quickly comes to realize that he has a purpose and is indispensable, contrary to what he may initially believe. His character is a great addition to the franchise, and his own arc is truly amazing, only to be brought full circle by the film’s end.

Overall, this film is a must see for any, whether you or your child have watched the previous Toy Story films or not. And don’t fret if you haven’t watched recently, or at all. There’s no need for a Toy Story binge session. Everything about this movie is perfect. 10/10.

Now, if you continue scrolling, you’ll find yourself reading spoilers from the film. I would like to suggest that if you have yet to find the time to watch Toy Story 4, please check out some of our other articles written by some awesome and talented writers. Thank you!

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Spoiler-Filled Section

So, if you’re still here, that is terrific. You’ve watched a masterpiece of a film. Or you would rather just find out some things that happen, and that is your prerogative.

The film starts out with an amazing, action-filled sequence that fills in a crucial event that takes place prior to the events of Toy Story 3; the rescue of RC and the disappearance of Bo Peep. This entire scene begins to set up the film, and is quite the tear-jerker. Having to watch Woody attempt to save Bo Peep, only for her to accept it is her time to move on from Molly’s ownership honestly had me tearing up.

From there, we get a quick, but beautifully shot recap of the ownership of the toys, namely the transferring of toys from Andy to Bonnie. It was such a welcome sight, and for those that may have skipped out on watching Toy Story 3, it was a great way to help them understand who this new human was. It also showed franchise newcomers who exactly Andy and Bonnie are to these toys, helping them better understand the Toy Story mythos.

One thing I really do wish to devote some time to, however, is the message that at least I picked up on, and it was not aimed at the core demographic, but rather their parents. This film to adults, specifically parents, is one that is about doing anything for your kid, and being forced to one day come to grips with the fact that, as Woody said, they will go off and do things you’ll never get to see. Basically, your kids will grow up and not be around as much anymore.

As someone that is growing up and not being around anymore, it truly helped me see what exactly my parents are going through currently. They spent 18 years raising me, seeing me every day, and then five years ago they sent me off to college, where I graduated and am now entering into the real world. Not being a parent, this is a concept I thought about them going through, but never truly understood, and still don’t fully understand. But this film allowed me the opportunity to gain a small glimpse of what exactly my mom and dad are going through right now, and I really, really appreciate this chance to see.

Back to the film, Bo Peep’s re-emergence in Great Basin and the RV Park/carnival was something that I was expecting to come, but not in the manner it did. She was fully transformed to a fully independent, “lost” toy. She fended for herself and her sheep, Billy, Goats, and Gruff, and had no trouble navigating the land between herself and the humans. Her ability to adapt to situations as they went was something I never expected from her character, and was a great arc I am happy she went through. Allowing the audience to get a feel for her storied life outside Molly’s room, but not showing us everything that happened, was a great story choice, ensuring we never lost focus of what this story was about.

Gabby Gabby’s only desire was to find a fully functioning voice box that would match her own, and ultimately, she finds Woody, who just so happens to have a similar voice box that will fix Gabby Gabby’s broken one. As her story went, I only ever felt more sympathy toward Gabby Gabby. Not only was she defective from the start, even when she “fixed” herself, Harmony still didn’t want her. That’s such a terribly sad thing to happen; spend years obsessing over being perfect for this girl, only to be tossed aside, yet it’s a wonderful metaphor for why we should never try to change ourselves for one person, but rather, to better ourselves for us.

Of course, Gabby Gabby wouldn’t have been able to “fix” herself if it weren’t for Woody’s decision to sacrifice his own voice box in order to save Forky. This is one of those times where the story is trying to show what exactly parents do for their children. This entire film, Woody acted as the parent of Forky, going so far as to jump out of the RV and wind up on a crazy adventure to save the spork and googly-eyed toy. His own actions of course do seem selfish on the outside, but after realizing that the story is about doing whatever it takes for your kids, it’s easy to realize that Woody was doing everything in his power for both Forky and Bonnie.

And finally, we reach the end of the film, where Buzz tells Woody those words that eventually every parent will have to hear. “She’ll be okay.” Of course, we first think Buzz is talking about Bo Peep. After all, this entire ordeal started by Woody leading Forky into Second Chance Antiques in hopes of finding Bo Peep, but no. Instead, Buzz is referring to Bonnie. She’ll be okay if Woody stays with Bo Peep. It’s such a wonderfully bittersweet moment. We as an audience spent four movies and nearly 25 years thinking Woody and Buzz are inseparable, only for the two to part ways in the end. But even though they are apart, we see that a part of them is left imprinted on the other, as Buzz states, “To infinity…” and Woody so lovingly replies, “… and beyond.”

The credits sequences are wonderful additions that continues the story in a way that had truly yet to be done by any film. In an era where mid- and post-credit scenes are practically a given, seeing Bo Peep, Woody, Ducky, and Bunny continuing their story in the carnival while Jesse, Buzz, Rex and Forky  continue their own for the next year is a welcomed change of pace.

Written By: Zach Smith