Pixar’s first feature, “Toy Story,” hit theaters almost 24 years ago back in a time where fully computer animated movies were unheard of. This June, nine years after “Toy Story 3,” the fourth installment arrives to fans of all ages. Originally slated to release in 2017, audiences like myself have been excited and nervous for the next adventure.
“Toy Story 4” picks up shortly after where “Toy Story 3” left off. Andy’s toys are now in the care of Bonnie, a five-year-old girl who has a knack for creativity but is fearful of starting kindergarten. The original gang Rex, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm, Slinky, Jessie, Buzz, and Woody join Bonnie’s toys on a summer road trip before Bonnie starts school. Woody meets hilarious new characters along the way, including conjoined plush toys voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves as a Canadian dare-devil named Duke Caboom, and Forky the makeshift spork voiced by Tony Hale.
The trailers suggest a simple plot revolving around Woody trying to bring back Forky to Bonnie. However, “Toy Story 4” has much more in store. With a new owner, the return of Bo, and numerous toys in need of help, Woody must move on from the life he grew accustomed to and look towards the future.
This sequel is extremely enjoyable and exceeded my modest expectations. Needless to say, it doesn’t compare to the original, but those who felt heartbroken after “Toy Story 3” will find hope and comfort in this new adventure. The humor is seamless with laugh-out-loud moments around every corner and the computer animation looks more colorful and shiny than ever.
What’s most impressive about “Toy Story 4” is that it incorporates heavier topics like loyalty, sacrifice, independence, and the meaning of life. Woody’s undying loyalty has always been the cornerstone to his personality. In this journey he faces difficult decisions which require him to choose what is most important to him. Bo reminds him that, “sometimes change can be good” and that he can choose his own destiny. Woody also takes it upon himself to teach Forky loyalty and what it means to be a toy. The meaning of life is a serious subject, but Woody makes it digestible by breaking it down in terms of life as a toy.
The theme of independence is brought to life by Bo Peep, a returning character from the first two films. Bo was once a coy porcelain doll, but now she’s the definition of an independent and capable woman. Since “Toy Story 2,” she ditched the hoop skirt and bonnet for practical pants and hair bow reminiscent of Rosie the Riveter. Her ingenuity and can-do attitude is admirable and refreshing. Those who wondered what happened to Bo Peep since “Toy Story 2” will be pleasantly surprised.
My only complaint is that “Toy Story 4” lacked special moments between Bonnie and her toys. The opening sequence with Rex playing the Buzz lightyear video game in “Toy Story 2” and the great train robbery in “Toy Story 3” were some of the funniest scenes from past movies. They illustrate how much fun it is to be a toy and the breadth of a child’s imagination. Without these scenes it is difficult to believe the connection between Bonnie and her toys as well as Woody’s motivation.
Overall, “Toy Story 4” is a heartwarming adventure with as much humor as the first and nostalgia as the third. This sweet addition to the franchise has something for everyone, whether they be fans of the original, new audiences who want to see Key and Peele as plush toys, or children looking to have a laugh with their families.