BRB, just ugly crying to infinity and beyond.
Sequels are an incredibly difficult thing to pull off. They have to be at least as good as if not better than their predecessor, introduce new and exciting ideas and characters and most importantly, be a logical continuation of the story. The job is exponentially harder when you’re dealing with one of the most beloved franchises in cinematic history. Somehow though, despite being the third sequel in a series 24 years in the making, Toy Story 4 (2019) surpasses every single expectation you could possibly have. Simply put, I. WAS. NOT. READY.
The fourth (and presumably final) installment in Pixar’s Toy Story (1995 – 2019) series, Toy Story 4 sees Woody and the rest of the toys adjusting to life with their new child Bonnie. To cope with kindergarten orientation, Bonnie creates a new toy named “Forky,” who quickly becomes her most cherished playmate. When Forky gets lost on a family road trip, it’s up to Woody to rescue him, reuniting with old friend Bo Peep along the way.
Full disclosure, I was against the idea of a fourth Toy Story movie ever since it was announced back in 2014. After Toy Story 3 (2010) perfectly brought the series full circle in a beautifully moving finale, I thought that Pixar was out of their minds to think that there was another story to be told. I immediately wrote it off as an unnecessary money-making ploy that would only tarnish what the trilogy had built. After seeing Toy Story 4 though…wow. I could not have been more wrong. It’s amazing to see all of our old friends on the big screen again and your heart will soar as you get to spend another hour and 40 minutes in their company. If like me you thought that Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending to the series, think again. Toy Story 4, and the entire series as a whole really, do what I believe every franchise intends to do but rarely succeeds at: It tells four complete chapters that make up one fully-realized and perfectly-told story. With the Toy Story series, you get a definitive beginning, middle and end to what has to be one of the most acclaimed stories in all of cinema. This final entry serves as an emotional and touching conclusion that after watching, will leave you saying, “yes. This IS how Toy Story is supposed to end. Toy Story 3 was about saying goodbye to Andy. Toy Story 4 is about saying goodbye to the toys themselves.
It will always be a delightful pleasure to watch Woody and Buzz interact together onscreen. Even after two decades and four movies, they still have a playful chemistry that has only matured with age. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen own these roles and once again deliver performances that are just as hilariously fun as they are heartfelt. Are these two of the best voice-over roles ever recorded? I’m going to go ahead and answer that with a big fat “yes.” All your favourite toys from the first three movies are back albeit in smaller roles. In Toy Story 4 the ensemble cast takes a backseat to Woody and Bo Peep (more on her in a second) which is a wise decision that only strengthens the movie overall. Used sparingly, each time the movie cuts back to the ensemble it’s for a scene that only adds more heart and humour to the movie rather than slowing down the pace or derailing the main narrative. The amount of lessons in filmmkaing that can be learned from Toy Story 4…endless!
As much as we love fan-favourites like Jessie, Mr. Potato Head and Rex, you don’t miss them too much because this is very much Woody and Bo’s story. Woody and Bo supply the movie’s action, of which there is plenty, while the other toys are the comedic relief. Fans will remember that Bo was notably absent from Toy Story 3, a detail which is addressed at the very beginning of Toy Story 4. Brace yourself because seeing how Bo gets separated from the rest of the toys is like an emotional sucker punch. Those years apart from Woody and the gang have only strengthened Bo, evolving her character from a love-interest to an action-hero who is anything but passive. It’s an exciting and welcome elaboration on the character that is a ton of fun. Oh, and don’t worry. There are still enough sparks between her and Woody to set off the world’s biggest firecracker.
In the tradition of Toy Story 2 and 3, Toy Story 4 introduces fans to a cast of new characters that you’ll instantly fall in love with. From Keanu Reeves’ Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom to Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Ducky and Bunny, each one lights up the screen ensuring that there isn’t a single scene in the movie that is dull or lacklustre. The biggest standout of all though is Forky, voiced by Tony Hale, whose existential crisis and longing for the trashcan make him the most hilarious and lovable animated character in recent memory. I never thought that at 23 I would be putting “plush toy of a spork with pipe cleaner arms” on my Christmas list, but here we are. Speaking of pipe cleaner arms, they and everything else in this movie are gorgeously animated. It’s a breathtaking work of art whose attention to detail will leave you speechless. Intricately designed dust bunnies! Do Pixar animators ever take a break? Some scenes are so impressively animated that you’ll almost forget you’re watching a cartoon. Even though only nine years separate them, I’d go as far to say that Toy Story 4 is even more visually stunning than the third. The winner for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars has never been more clear.
Like its predecessors, Toy Story 4 explores heavy themes while still managing to be a laugh out loud funny and heartwarming movie that represents the most treasured parts of storytelling: joy, love and friendship. If you think you can make it to the end of the movie without crying you’re sorely mistaken. Seriously, this movie made me want to pull out all my old toys, give them a big hug and thank them for all the amazing times together. Finally, let me ask you this: Will we as a society ever get tired of hearing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me?” I don’t think so.
Have you seen Toy Story 4 yet? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!