Toy Story 4

by Hans A. Carpenter

hans@freeburgtribune.com

Release Date: June 21

Director John Cooley

MPAA: PG

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Annie Potts

Mister Marquee Says: LEGENDARY

Number: 5/5

When Bonnie’s new creation Forky escapes, Woody (Tom Hanks) goes on a mission to hunt down the arts-and-crafts project because he is convinced Forky is the key to Bonnie adjusting to kindergarten. The Toy Story franchise doesn’t make bad movies. That much is an irrefutable fact. Here, yet again, we get a fantastically entertaining entry, although one that isn’t very necessary. Toy Story 3 was a perfect ending for the toys, but you know, money. So, we get Toy Story 4, which is, again, a really, really awesome movie. It just doesn’t feel as poignant as the rest of the series. That being said, it has everything you need in a Toy Story movie.

The animation is beautiful, the script is witty, and there are tear-jerking moments. The franchise has always been so grounded in identifiable, flawed, and consistent characters, none more so than Woody. Woody’s journey has taken him from jealous of Buzz to fearing the day Andy abandons him to getting a second chance with Bonnie. In this entry, Woody is beaten down. He’s weary from years of thanklessly helping these kids and doing his sacred duty as a toy. The years are catching up to him. He let his love interest, Bo Peep, go when he could have left with her because Andy needed him. Now Woody is going through extreme circumstances to save Forky for Bonnie because Woody is convinced she needs Forky.

Toy Story 4 seems to ask, why? Why is Woody putting himself through the same cycle over and over again? It’s possible this is a meta commentary on the cyclical nature of the franchise as a whole. Toy Story is so good at framing these struggles in very human terms. In the first Toy Story, Woody, the venerated leader, had to deal with Andy having a new favorite toy and learn to put his selfishness aside. In this entry, Woody has to ask himself, is his obsession with helping Bonnie adjust to kindergarten really to help her, or because Woody feels useless and needs to help Bonnie to feel alive?

Thematically, Toy Story 4 doesn’t fit as snugly into the series as the previous entry. Maybe that’s because the trilogy and three-act structure are just so engrained in us. On the surface, this seems to be a movie that doesn’t have a reason to exist. Like Woody, Toy Story is weary of the repetitive sequel cycle. Boy, can it still pack a wallop emotionally, with the biggest gut punches coming from a sympathetic and well-crafted antagonist in Gabby. There’s more going on under the surface than first appears. The unassailable quality and heft of the franchise is not lost. The cynic in me sees the ending as a cold, calculated cash-grab maneuver by Disney, but the romantic in me wants to believe the franchise will quit while they’re ahead and end on another cathartic closure point.

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