After “Forky”, a toy made from garbage, is given life, Woody and the gang go on a road trip adventure that will change their existence.
In the first 10 minutes there’s a scene where Woody lies in the rain devastated after having to decide between love and loyalty. Despite not moving a muscle, his body language shows his despair. Slumped shoulders, resigned face and sad eyes. But once his human boy reaches out to him, he goes completely straight and his facial expression changes to that of a rigid and emotionless toy lying on the floor.
To say the least, Pixar has come very far since 1995.
The evolution of digital animation has never been more present than in this film, when they can emotionally wreck you through a fabric and plastic doll. And the movie is full of these visually and thematically beautiful moments.
This is without even getting into the absolute marvel presented by the level of detail that the animation goes into. From particles of dust and cobwebs, tiny rips in fabric, scratches on the toy’s plastic and minute facial expressions, as expected, technically it goes well beyond all expectations.
But I think it’s fair to warn you that this is not particularly a “kids” movie in the same way the first two are. In what feels like a natural evolution of Toy Story 3’s deep reflection on its characters, Toy Story 4 goes even deeper into Woody’s core ideals and to some extent also looks into Buzz, which might account for some complaints I’ve seen and heard that the film can be slow and/or boring.
Admittedly, Toy Story 3 had an already near perfect ending for the series and I can understand people taking issue with the fact that the third film’s ending has been slightly retconned, going back on the promise of “they lived happily forever after” with Bonnie.
Personally, I commend Pixar for making this bold (and yes, unnecessary) move. Especially when the result is this good.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen don’t disappoint and slip back into their iconic roles of the Cowboy and the Space Ranger with ease, providing them with the heart, humor, charm and emotion we have come to expect.
Unfortunately, the rest of the gang are sidelined as this is very much the story of Woody’s internal conflict with his undying loyalty for children and his desire to live his life.
And part of that conflict is Bo Peep, Woody’s love interest since the first Toy Story, returning after having sit out the third film. Bo has been rebuilt to be more friendly to gender ideals and concepts of this era and is much more interesting to follow around this time rather than just being a damsel in distress.
Besides being emotionally affecting, the movie is also truly funny with plenty laughs to be had, mainly courtesy of the new characters Ducky, Bunny and Duke Caboom, voiced expertly by Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and the “whoatastic” Keanu Reeves, respectively. All three actors deliver some of the funniest moments and lines and prove to be great additions for the franchise.
Which brings me to the other new main character: Forky. A spork given arms, legs, a face and a soul, Forky understandably goes through an existential crisis as he considers himself to be trash and therefore has no right being alive. Although Forky is funny, sweet and certainly interesting, it is slightly disappointing that his existential crisis is taken care of quickly when I think the whole story could have dealt with a fascinating philosophical conundrum.
Then again, I can’t expect Disney/Pixar to go that heavy. They do have toys and happy meals to sell after all.
Our antagonist this time, Gabby Gabby is a bit of a mixed bag, disappointingly presenting almost the exact same backstory and motivation from previous villains but is infused with as much of an interesting journey and resolution as the previous bad guys.
I only truly hope that this is the end of the line for Woody, Buzz, Bo, Jessie and all the other toys as the task of improving or staying at the same level for this franchise would prove to be extremely difficult.
Adults, who were previously children when the original came out, should have plenty to think about with it’s more mature and philosophical nature while kids will have fun with the adventures of Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep and the rest. Toy Story 4 takes fans to infinity and beyond with a sweet, funny, character-driven, emotional and visually stunning conclusion (for now) to the gang’s journey, giving us an almost perfect saga.