Toy Story 4 continues the adventures of toys Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Bo Peep (Annie Potts), and the others in the toy collection of Andy (Jack McGraw), nine years after the events of Toy Story 3. But it stands alone quite well.
Now aged about 16, Andy (John Morris) has of course outgrown his toys, which now belong to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). Bonnie, in her first day at preschool, creates a new toy, Forky; but, being based on a spork straight from the classroom garbage bin, Forky must continually be watched: identifying himself as “trash” rather than as a toy, he seeks garbage bins in which to live. When Forky blows out of the family camper van’s window, Woody immediately goes in search of him. But Forky’s rescue becomes increasingly dangerous.
Toy Story 4 raises many interesting personal challenges for its protagonists and its viewers. Woody, like Forky, eventually must question the beliefs that have underlain his own choices: beliefs such as his own indispensability to his new “kid”, Bonnie, and his continuing importance to his former “kid”, Andy.
Bo Peep clearly learns how simultaneously to cherish her newfound independence as a “lost” (unowned) toy and to rediscover and foster her romantic feelings.
A new character, Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), is forced to choose between superficial daredevilry and true courage. And, surprisingly for a movie whose target audience is largely young children, Toy Story 4 visits, albeit gently, themes that many adults have no wish to think about, including organ harvesting and live organ donation. But the film tackles all of this with great subtlety, simply opening the underlying moral issues for the viewer to consider.
Sometimes a film comes along that surpasses all expectation. It may imagine more fully, explore the human condition more deeply, refine nonverbal communication to a higher art, or more artfully interweave all aspects of film than do its contemporaries. It may feature an original soundtrack unusually well suited to its purpose, create characters so loveable that you must know them better, or have them transcend internal or external obstacles with inspiring grace.
Toy Story 4 contains all of these surprises and more; it’s a heartfelt, surprisingly sophisticated movie that will stir your soul and awaken a degree of social and personal awareness. Take some kids along and see it; you’ll love it.