Disney and Pixar continue to deliver greatness with the absolutely brilliant Toy Story 4. The film is a banner sequel on all fronts. It combines hysterical humor with an abstract, emotionally complex plot. You will laugh out loud, be genuinely frightened by several well-placed scares, and get misty-eyed by the existential crises faced by the characters. Toy Story 4 runs a gamut of deep feelings without being overly sentimental. It does get quite serious for a children's movie, but justifies the drama. Everyone grows up and gets older. Toy Story 4 shows that change is inevitable and doesn't have to be feared.
Toy Story 4 has a plot with many moving parts. It begins in the past, then quickly jumps to the present with Woody (Tom Hanks) facing a new dilemma. He's no longer Bonnie's (Madeleine McGraw) favorite toy. Woody finds himself often in the closet collecting dust. For the first time, he's the toy that's left behind. But that doesn't dampen his affection or loyalty to his kid. Bonnie is terrified to start kindergarten. Woody decides to go with her and make sure the first day at school is a success.
Bonnie struggles initially, but is overjoyed by her arts and crafts creation. Bonnie makes Forky (Tony Hale) out of a spork, twist ties, gum, and popsicle sticks. Forky is Bonnie's favorite new toy that she can't do without. But Forky's not the smartest utensil. He's hilariously always drawn to the nearest trash bin. Woody's constantly chasing Forky and trying to convince him he's a toy. The cat and mouse game escalates when Bonnie's family goes on a camper vacation. Woody runs into a long lost friend (Annie Potts), who has an entirely different view on being a toy.
Toy Story 4 brings back an old character and introduces a slew of new ones. The new toys add delightful and creepy complications to the plot. Forky's mad dashes for garbage and childlike questioning is knockdown funny. It is a thread that gets better as the film progresses. Then you have Keanu Reeves stealing the show as the Canadian stunt driving motorcyclist, Duke Caboom. Disney and Pixar may have given Canada a spectacular new mascot. But it's not all fun and games. The antagonist, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), has a subplot that's borderline terrifying. Toy Story 4 takes the franchise in a darker direction. There's a spoonful of dread to remind children that the world can also be frightening. I would never have imagined jumping out of my seat in a Toy Story film.
The crux of Toy Story 4 is about growth. Woody, Buzz (Tim Allen), and the gang are not the same toys. The first three films had them racing back to their beloved Andy. Bonnie is equally loved, but is different in her wants and needs. The toys, who always do what's best for their children, face a reckoning. Toy Story 4 has them questioning their purpose. There's introspection galore. These themes are intensely dramatic, but handled with skill by the filmmakers. I've criticized Pixar in the past for being too depressing. Up and Inside Out squeezed your eyeballs for every drop of tears. Toy Story 4 will tug at your heartstrings, but doesn't go overboard. We see the characters evolve. There's a logical conclusion to their journey.
Every Toy Story film has been an improvement. If this is truly the last installment, Toy Story 4 ends the franchise on a glorious high note. The film is deserving of every accolade and award, a must see for all ages. Stick around during the credits. The additional scenes are the perfect digestifs. Toy Story 4 is produced by Pixar and distributed by Disney Studios.