Review: ‘Toy Story 4’ Brings Imagination, Existential Crises, & Awesome

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toy story 4 review
via CNN
toy story 4 review
via CNN

Where does one even start when talking about a franchise as beloved as Toy Story? With a legacy spanning more than 20 years, a dedicated land at Walt Disney World, and status as a cultural touchstone for millions of people, you could hardly blame Disney/Pixar for adopting the old phrase If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Each subsequent entry into the franchise is a risk – but one that has paid off again and again. Toy Story 4 is no exception, bringing imagination, existential crises (yes, plural), and awesome in a very satisfying sequel.

This latest installment finds Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), & Co. on the road with their new kid – Bonnie – and parents… not to mention Bonnie’s new favorite “toy,” Forky (Tony Hale). Yep, Forky would be the sentient spork you’ll recognize from the trailers and such. Woody takes it upon himself to look after Forky, whom he recognizes as critically important to Bonnie – though Forky doesn’t make it easy, attempting to hurtle himself into the trash at every turn. Eventually, this results in Woody and Forky making a detour into an ominous antique shop and a colorful carnival, facing new foes and reuniting with old friends (hello, Bo Peep!) as they attempt to make their way back to Bonnie.

Their journey brings tons of laughs – I don’t want to oversell it but seriously, we missed some lines in the theater due to people laughing so hard – and surprisingly, more jump scares than many thrillers (which also end up being hilarious). However, as is the Pixar way, Toy Story 4 also brings so much heart. There’s existential angst from various characters over finding one’s purpose and rightful place in life or that one thing that will fix all your problems and make your life whole. Who knew you could relate so hard to a sentient spork constantly trying to throw himself into the trash?

Beyond the existential angst, we also get to see a lot of characters surpassing their original or intended purposes, inspiring creativity and hope for a greater path. Bo Peep (Annie Potts) is a great example of this, going from looking pretty on her lamp and serving as a love interest for Woody to becoming a cape-wearing, fast-driving “lost toy” who has found joy in the freedom that brings. Bo Peep has become a badass, and it’s great to finally see her stand on her own (pun intended) and take part in the action.

The only thing I really missed from Toy Story 4 was the ensemble cast from the original trilogy. While Buzz Lightyear has some standout moments, this is primarily Woody and Bo Peep’s story – along with some delightful new characters, including Forky, Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), Bunny (Jordan Peele), Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). The new group is fantastic, but it would have been great to spend some more time with our old friends too.

Toy Story 4 is a must-see, bringing an incredibly funny, heartfelt, and relatable tale that all ages will enjoy. Make sure to stay for the credits. Until then – so long, partner.

Toy Story 4 hits theaters June 20, 2019.