Director: Josh Cooley
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
Production: Pixar Animation Studios
Geek Rate: Sky god worthy (5 out of 5 stars)
It feels weird writing a review about “Toy Story 4.” It was like a flashback to your childhood, there’s Woody and Buzz, and Slinky and Evil Dr. Pork Chop, all of the toys that became your friends. The movie is like a hello and goodbye to your childhood. It was fun, but now we have to hit the road.
Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang are back in “Toy Story 4” as they embark on a road trip with new toy named Forky, a plastic spork with popsicle-stick feet and pipe cleaner arms, created by Bonnie. Throughout the Trip, Woody safeguards Forky, who becomes the most important toy for Bonnie. But Forky is adamant in believing that he is not a toy and constantly wants to throw himself into the trash, and away from Bonnie.
Pixar deviates from the traditional straightforward story of the movie. “Toy Story 4” consists of several stories unified into the movie’s classic theme of being lost and finding your purpose. In the opening scene, we find the gang rescuing R.C. from being swept down a storm drain. This scene sets the movie’s theme running, and serves as a metaphor of many things: of being lost and alone, of searching for a purpose and sticking to it, and of letting go and moving on.
But there’s something new that Pixar, with its love of philosophy, shows in this fourth Toy Story: the anxiety of being useless. For Woody, that’s the fear that he’s too old to hold the attention of Bonnie anymore. In a way, that’s the fear of the audience for this fourth movie, that the sequel fatigue will take place, and this special story of Woody and Buzz and the rest of the gang might be blotted.
The rules and codes followed by the toys in this movie are there. What motivates these toys is their devotion to their child, and their desire to be love and be played by a child. We are reminded of this by Gabby Gabby, a 1950s-era talking doll who like Lotso, is the ruler of the old toys (including a bunch of Slappy-like dolls from “Goosebumps.”) in an antique shop. Her desire to be played by a child motivates her to fix her broken voice box, believing that someday, a child will finally take notice of her. There’s also Duke Caboom, a motorcycle stuntman from Canada (“Yes, we Canada!”) who despite being forgotten by his child, still strives to make his old owner proud. Finally, we have Ducky and Bunny, the plush collectibles who wants for a child to win and take them out of the fairground ball toss stall.
Like “Toy Story 2,” the focus of this movie is with Woody, but he shares the limelight with Forky and the returning Bo Peep. I like “Toy Story 3,” because it focused on almost all of the toys, while in this movie, the scenes with Rex, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Slinky, and the rest are somewhat minimal. In a foreboding sense, Pixar might be sending a message here: while the third movie is about a new life for the toys, “Toy Story 4,” is more about moving on, embarking to a new adventure. For Woody, that means leaving your child behind. Pixar is saying that maybe it’s time to say goodbye to Woody and to our childhood. “She’ll be fine,” Buzz said.
The movie awakens the memories of our childhood, from its songs to its familiar characters, to the graphic details that is a mark of Pixar. The details were stunning, just look at the cat, it looks like well, a real cat. The dimensions, spatial details, and textures make the toys evoke a sense of familiarity that will take you back on time when you once played with them. “Toy Story 4” is a resulting graphical triumph of Pixar’s experiences from making animation movies from the first Toy Story movie in 1995, to focusing on human bodies in “The Incredibles”, to perfecting textures of inanimate object in “Cars”, of animals (including underwater animation) in “Finding Nemo” and “Monsters Inc.”, up to the awe-inspiring “WALL-E.”
The truth is, it doesn’t matter if “Toy Story 4” will not live up to the level of the original movies, as expected with sequels. The chance of saying goodbye is enough. Bo Beep is there, and I’m glad she’s fine. Buzz and Jessie and all of Andy’s surviving toys are there too. Woody, is still the loyal cowboy that I know. If this a goodbye movie, I’m okay with it.
So long sheriff, to infinity and beyond.