One of my favorite movie series is The Muppets, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the newest movies. In the Muppets Most Wanted they sing a song about doing a sequel where they poke fun at the movie’s own existence – and one of the lines of the song is “We’re doing a sequel, the studio wants more / while they wait for Tom Hanks to make Toy Story 4.”
This was pretty humorous at the time when Toy Story 4 had NOT yet been announced, and then a year or so later Disney announced it. It was a funny line because the idea of another Toy Story movie back then seemed both unnecessary and ultimately inevitable. And I will admit that I was a bit skeptical when Toy Story 4 was announced. Toy Story 3 tied up the series so well and it worked as a trilogy. Did we need Toy Story 4? What more could it tell? And then when I saw the previews and saw Forky… I was a little afraid it would be played just for laughs without the substance of the original movies.
I can say now that most of my fears were for nothing, because it is a great movie. There were still a few things that I might have small issues with, and I’m still not totally confident that it needed to be told, but it was very enjoyable.
Please note: there will be slight spoilers in this review, and another warning before anything that might be considered a more major spoiler.
One of the issues I guess I have with this film, if we want to touch on the negative, is that the Toy Story movies feel a little formulaic. Toys are constantly getting lost or separated from their owners and from each other, some toys are favored over others while old favorites are left in the closet, etc. This is once again the case here.
However, there are also some new themes which is what makes the movie really strong and worthwhile. One of the main examples of this is that character which I was worried about, Forky. He is not ready to accept being a toy – he came out of the trash, after all – and tries to jump back into any trash can he can find in a hilarious sequence of scenes. But it’s Woody’s dedication to Forky and keeping him with Bonnie that is really the most fascinating part. Woody has gone through so many emotions and struggles in the past movies, and now he struggles with what his purpose really is. And for this movie, he decides it’s making sure Forky is there for Bonnie.
There are other new characters who are all interesting and fun. Key and Peele voice Ducky and Bunny and provide a lot of big laughs. Keanu Reeves is Duke KaBoom, an anxiety ridden action figure who can’t successfully complete the stunts he was meant to do. And then there’s Gabby Gabby, part villain and part sympathetic figure, a doll who has spent her life in the antique store due to broken voice box. One old favorite is back too, and that’s Bo Peep. Instead of the pretty, ladylike porcelain doll from the first movie, Bo is now a badass lost toy leading a band of other lost toys.
Speaking of that antique store, there are some scenes here that get a little creepy! If old dolls freak you out a little this is kind of the stuff of nightmares. Picture a number of ventriloquist dummies, all identical and their heads moving in creepy unison… yeah, it was a definitely a little freaky.
Randy Newman is back to do the music for this film, and once again it’s a great score. There is a new song featured called “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” and fun and catchy song that I really enjoyed and which added to the whole “Forky trying to throw himself in the trash” scenes. It worked perfectly.
I am not going to spoil the ending but I will say that like many people, I absolutely cried my eyes out. While it seems fitting in many ways, it’s also pretty hard to accept, given what we know of the characters and past Toy Story movies. I can’t really say anything more than that.
At the end of the day it feels like Toy Story 4 asks a lot of big philosophical questions – what does our existence truly mean? We have Forky, who was never meant to be sentient but now is. Woody is dealing with the realization that he is probably “past his prime” – he is thrown in the back of a closet and no longer an important toy. Bo Peep has found a satisfying life outside of having “a kid.” The purpose of a toy always seemed so clear, but in this movie we learn that is not the case. It is very relatable – as humans, we struggle through different phases of life and spend much of our time wondering what it all means. Ultimately I think Toy Story 4 is saying not every has the same purpose, or our purpose may change throughout life, and that’s okay – and I think that’s a pretty cool message.
I do’t know that Toy Story 4 is my favorite Toy Story movie, but it’s certainly a worthy addition to the franchise, even if not strictly necessary. The real question is – will they find a way to make Toy Story 5?
Did you see Toy Story 4 yet? What did you think of it?