Movie Review: Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 The Toys

The “Toy Story” movie franchise continues to grow with the addition of “Toy Story 4” opening in theaters June 21, 2019.

It’s hard to believe that Woody and the gang have been around since 1995, when Pixar created the very first feature length animated movie, “Toy Story.” The narrative about how John Lasseter and a group of software developers working for Steve Jobs, who owned Pixar at the time, brought these beloved computer animated characters to life deserves its own post. You can read the full story in my book, “101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up.” But let’s just say it wasn’t an easy sell. In spite of Disney’s aversion to computer animation over traditionally hand-animated movies back then, Jobs and Disney agreed to give this new form of visual storytelling a try.

Look at them now!

Movie Synopsis: Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody’s slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realize that they’re worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

“Toy Story 4” is a delightful addition to the heartwarming adventures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Jessie, and Bo Peep. Yes, Bo is back! There are also a couple of new toys in town for this installment. Forky is a spork turned toy by its creator, Bonnie, the new child that owns the toys this time around, and a scarily doll named Gabby Gabby who lives in an antiques store because she’s broken.

Toy Story 4 Forky

Most of the movie is exactly what you want and expect. The toys’ friendship is as solid as ever, and we feel a certain comfort in the familiarity of the characters.  Tom Hanks easily slides into Woody’s voice, as does Tim Allen as Buzz. Things start off with Woody being overprotective of his kid. He sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack and hitches a ride to her first day of school – he wants to make sure she’s OK. Emotions run high from the get go when we see little Bonnie struggling to make friends. Instead of befriending other kids, she crafts a friend with a spork. It turns out that Forky displaces Woody as her favorite toy, but the pull-string cowboy knows how to deal with rejection.

The family goes on an RV trip and they take all the toys. As the story moves gingerly from fun to frantic, things start to get complicated. Woody fights to keep Sporky’s urge to hurl himself in the trash so Bonnie won’t be sad if he goes missing.  He fails a few times, but manages to rescue him. Woody finally teaches Sporky how valuable he really is.

One of the scarier scenes in “Toy Story 4” is when Forky is taken hostage by the menacing Gabby Gabby. The broken doll is determined to get out of the second hand shop and into the loving arms of a child. She sees her chance when Woody and the gang come looking for Forky. A frenzy of activity ensues as they try to rescue him. But Bo Peep, wearing her skirt as a superhero cape, commandeers the mission in the little shop of horrors and arranges daring stunts, risky moves, and beats the villainous puppets. A word of caution: this high-flying action could be unsettling for little ones watching all of this unfold.

There’s another turning point in the plot that involves an audience with a little more maturity despite the G rating. Without spoiling anything, there’s something in the air for a pair of toys that may not be quite understood by the younger set.  Perhaps this more grown-up undertone comes as a result of this movie’s longevity, and could be targeting the audience that has grown up with the franchise. In any case, be prepared for some possible unexpected themes not quite aimed at 5 year olds.

A noticeable change in “Toy Story 4” from the last few installments is the quality of the animation; it’s beautiful, vibrant and crisp without leaning too much on photo realism. Take a look at the cobwebs in the picture above. It’s such an elaborate detail! This aspect of the animation pulls us in by allowing us to practically touch and feel the texture of the toys.

There’s a lot to like about “Toy Story 4.” Parents and kids alike will find something to relate to in this movie that will surely pull at the heartstrings.

Oh! And be sure to stick around for the credits. There’s a little something extra to watch. 🙂

Toy Story 4

Rated G

Run time 1 hour and 40 minutes


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