“Toy Story 4,” the latest story starring our beloved toys, will finally been revealed when the film hits theaters on June 21, a long-awaited eight years, 11 months, and 26 days since “Toy Story 3” was released. All of that anticipation finally comes to an end with a 110-minute film starring a discarded spork (the new character Forky, voiced by Tony Hale), or in better terms, a piece of trash. Given the film’s overpopulation of unnecessary new characters and a weak, unsatisfying ending, what will make viewers continue to buy tickets?
The film focuses primarily on Woody (Tom Hanks) and his realization that he is not loved the same way by Bonnie as he was by his previous kid, Andy. Losing his leadership title over Andy’s toys, he does everything in his power to gain back their respect, even if it means going as far as jumping out of an RV to retrieve Bonnie’s beloved spork. Still present is the past “Toy Story” films’ motto of “leave no man (or toy) behind” being put into action, but the consequence of removing Woody from his home base makes for a tangent of a story involving the lives of characters that we never really learn to love.
From 1995 to 2019, the “Toy Story” franchise has been the heart of my childhood experience. I used to sit and rewatch “Toy Story” on repeat on my sick days in elementary school. When I had friends over, it was always our top choice. My mom even bought me a real Woody, except personally, I didn’t take the same interest in the sheriff as Andy did. As a kid, I was more of a stuffed animal type of gal, which is another reason why I found it so bizarre that Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) found so much comfort in sleeping with a spork. I guess it just goes to show how sometimes our most prized possessions can be seen as nothing more than other people’s trash.
Before I get into the reasons why this movie did not live up to my expectations, I do want to applaud the artistic perspective of the film. The animation was truly incredible. Some parts of the film I couldn’t even differentiate between what was real or animated. The fur on the cat and the hair on the teacher was the acme of animated craft. Pixar has come a long way, especially if you remember all of the trouble that went into the 2004 “Incredibles” film where Pixar spent months trying to figure out how to make the main character, Violet’s, hair move properly to look slightly realistic. The attention to detail of each character, costume, and setting is something that will leave the audience in awe.
Despite the way the film looks, the major flaw is the plot and incorrect focus on certain characters. “Toy Story” has always been a movie series that I watched to find comfort and be reminded of the feeling of home. I found “Toy Story 4” to be very unsettling because “the gang” remains broken up for the majority of the film and it doesn’t get much better as the film progresses.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great to see Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) again after years of not knowing what happened to her, but honestly, Woody never seemed to think much about her, he was so more invested in his friendship with Buzz and Jessie that we all just kind of forgot about Bo Peep. So, you can imagine my surprise when she appeared out of nowhere as a completely new character. A badass woman by definition, I hardly recognized her. This makes for it all to be very unsettling as the story progresses because it is now hard to even understand the characters that you once felt like you knew inside and out.
In addition to changing character traits, the story follows a completely new set of toys rather than the typical gang that starred in the first three films. We hardly even get to see Rex, and Jessie, and Slinky, and Mr/Ms. Potato Head. Even Buzz is rarely seen. Rather, new complex characters, an antique doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her four ventriloquist dummies and Ducky and Bunny, two fluffy stuffed animals (voiced by Keagan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) steal the show as we follow their new journey to find their own homes, which ultimately ends up redefining Woody’s definition of home. What was once a story of a boy and his toys turns into a constant action film that only ends with the disappointment of seeing the toys face betrayal.
Ultimately, what causes me to lose interest in the film is the lack of information about the toys past owner Andy. We know he is still in college because Bonnie hasn’t grown up much since her ending scene in “Toy Story 3,” however his college life isn’t even mentioned by any characters. I was really hoping to get one final reunion between the toys and Andy. It would have brought the story full circle and created for a more nostalgic ending to what used to be a heartwarming and home filled story about the importance of family and belonging.
What Disney and Pixar have done by twisting the plot and bringing in new characters has created what seems to me like anticipation for a “Toy Story 5.” Many of us have grown up with this series and it will continue to grow with us and hopefully reunite the audience with its beloved kid Andy. The gang is supposed to be a family that leaves no man behind. The film’s ending then sends a mixed message to children.
“Toy Story 4” is not only unnecessary to the overall complexity of the first three stories, but it ultimately distracts from the franchise’s importance of family theme. The film is beautiful trash, but it’s still trash as Forky would call it.