Rating: 4/5 Stars
In a series of movies that has seen many people from their childhood in the 90s to their adulthood in the now 2010s, Toy Story 4 comes as less of an ending and more like a new beginning. The film follows the gang of toys including Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) as they experience their new lives as Bonnie’s toys since being given to her by their original owner Andy. The plot gets a jumpstart when Bonnie goes to her kindergarten orientation day and comes back having created a toy on her own: a lopsidedly decorated spork by the name of ‘Forky.’ As the endearingly sweet Forky struggles to come to terms with, well, being alive, Woody stumbles across his old friend Bo Peep.
Now while Bo Peep had little relevance in the previous films – mostly relegated to being Woody’s love interest and a passing mention of her being given away in Toy Story 3 – there is a good job done here of establishing more depth to her character without making it seem like a last-minute thought. A flashback scene explains how she got separated from the original gang in the first place while showing the comradery that she and Woody share as two toys that are deeply loyal to the people they care about. Their sweet relationship is what makes their adventures so fun to watch as you couple Woody’s dependency with Bo Peep’s resilience.
Which brings us to the ‘villain’ of this tale, a pull string doll with a broken voice box by the name of Gabby Gabby who aims to take Woody’s voice box so that she may finally work. Negative roles in animated films tend to be a hit or miss, often relegated to kind of boring characters with a flimsy motive as to why they do the bad things they do. Gabby Gabby seems to start off this way until we are treated to the more pleading side of her that is just desperate to experience what it means to be loved by a child. In the end she’s less of an evil toy and more of a genuinely wanton character that comes into her own.
When it was announced that there was going to be a fourth instalment in the Toy Story series, the Internet heard a resounding cry: “But it ended so perfectly!” This of course is referring to the famous ending of Toy Story 3, where we see the characters that we have known and loved for 15 years bid farewell to Andy with a final afternoon of play time and a bittersweet, “So long, partner.” What could possibly top that?
Other than its staggeringly beautiful animation (seriously, some shots may as well have been live action) Toy Story 4 doesn’t top any of the past films. But it doesn’t have to. The first was all about its unique concept and instantly lovable characters, the second progressed the toys and their sense of loyalty towards Andy, and the third served as an (initial) ending to the story as we see Andy inevitably grow up and the toys moving on to be there for the next kid that needs them. But what Toy Story 4 brings to the table is an exploration of what it means to break from what is expected and explore the unknown. A few years ago, the idea of Woody no longer being with the original gang of toys would have sounded like blasphemy to even the most casual of Toy Story fans. Yet when you look back on what these characters have gone through in just four films, from Buzz accepting that he is a toy to everyone realizing that Andy is all grown up to Woody now realizing that he doesn’t have to be there for just one kid at a time, it makes sense.
We used to think that the last line of the Toy Story series would be that iconic “So long, partner” and a shot of the cloud-filled sky resembling the first ever shot of Andy’s wallpaper in the first film. Instead, to drive the point home that this is a story that doesn’t have to come full circle and instead go into the beyond, we are given Woody and Buzz signing off with the perfect open end: “To infinity, and beyond.”
Watch the trailer for Toy Story 4 here: