‘Toy Story 4’ goes beyond infinity

The story of Woody, Buzz and the gang continues in Toy Story 4, directed by Josh Cooley and co-written by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom. When his owner Bonnie makes a new favorite plaything out of a discarded spork and pipe cleaners, Woody (Tom Hanks) must teach Forky (Tony Hale) what it really means be a toy – and redefine it for himself along the way. With its trademark clever adventures and stunning animation, Toy Story 4 is a worthy addition to a franchise that has grown up along with its audience. (BKP: 5/5)

Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

When Toy Story premiered in 1995, it was Pixar’s first feature about shiny new space action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) replacing an old-fashioned cowboy rag doll as their beloved owner’s favorite toy. It has grown into one of the most beloved Disney franchises, expanding its cast and its emotionally resonant messages about childhood and the passage of time with each memorable sequel. When teenage Andy dropped off a box full of his old friends on Bonnie’s porch at the end of Toy Story 3, he told her Woody would never give up on her. Toy Story 4 makes good on that promise.

Woody is no longer the sheriff in town in Bonnie’s room, often finding himself relegated to the bottom of her closet with other discarded toys. Woody makes it his personal mission to keep Bonnie’s kindergarten art project Forky safe on a family vacation, but the mission proves more difficult than anything he faced inside the comfort of Andy’s old room. This bumpy roadtrip leads him to a creepy antique shop, a traveling carnival, and most importantly, an old friend. Bo Peep (Annie Potts, absent from the most recent film in an explained flashback) is what some would call a “lost toy,” but she doesn’t quite see it that way, and she tries to show Woody that there’s more to the life of a toy outside of a kid’s room.

With hilarious voice acting contributions from Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves, this Toy Story places a lot of emphasis on new characters – but it only makes you appreciate the old, and it plays into the movie’s theme of letting go and growing up. Slinky, Rex and the gang (most notably, Buzz) are relegated to the background of this installment, a minor flaw in an otherwise priceless antique.

Just as Bonnie builds Forky when she needs him, the “kids” in the audience who are Andy’s age and far away from their childhood bedrooms need something to hold onto just as much as she does. If Woody represents the joy and comfort of a happy childhood, Bo Peep represents the scrappy resourcefulness of adulthood – and that’s why Toy Story 4 is at its strongest when they work together. Although the franchise’s conclusion to its trilogy nine years ago was the perfect goodbye, this epilogue is a beautifully heartbreaking hello to something new.

© Brigid K. Presecky (6/21/2019) FF2 Media

Photos Courtesy of Disney Pixar

Top Photo: Bo Peep helps Woody and Buzz rescue Forky from a group of creepy antique toys.

Middle Photo: The old gang from Andy’s room is relegated to the background of Toy Story 4.

Bottom Photo: Woody and Bo ponder the life of a “lost toy.”

Q: Does Toy Story 4 pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

A: Yes! Bo Peep plays a much larger role than in previous films, Bonnie and her mother are central human characters and Christina Hendricks voices multidimensional doll Gabby Gabby.

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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