When Toy Story 4 was first announced, a vocal group on Twitter seemed to all say the same thing…”why?” The third installment wrapped things up so nicely and seemed like a perfect note, was Toy Story 4 really necessary? Well, the answer is yes. Toy Story 4 is easily the funniest of the films. It proves it belongs right along side the first three and further cements the series as the best animated franchise ever.
Above all, Toy Story 4 is Pixar firing on all cylinders – it’s a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of heart. It (potentially) wraps up the franchise in a nice bow and gives our old friends the final character arcs they so deserve.
Toy Story 4 opens with a flashback to Andy’s days with Woody. When we pick back up, it’s Bonnie who brings her massive imagination to life with the gang. On her first day of kindergarten, she makes a new friend – forky (Tony Hale).
Forky, as the world has seen in the trailers, doesn’t believe himself to be a toy, despite Bonnie’s affection for him. When forky runs away to freedom, Woody and the gang make it their mission to bring him back to Bonnie.
Immediately from the film’s opening moments, Toy Story 4 feels like coming home. It’s a cozy place you belong with friends you’ve known forever who just get you. And while it’s great catching up with all the old pals (even beyond Woody and Buzz), it’s the new friends who steal the show.
It’s astonishing that it’s taken this long for Tony Hale to get a front and center role in a children’s story. His voice acting is perfectly playful and lighthearted. It strikes a balance between nailing the comedic timing and being sentimental enough for the film’s heartfelt moments, of which there are plenty. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele back together feels just like old times and the pair don’t miss a beat. They could carry their own spinoff.
Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves steals the show as Duke Caboom, a Canadian daredevil on a motorcycle. His backstory is so funny while also being rather heartbreaking. The gang’s adventure gives the chance to redeem himself, and he takes full advantage.
Like its predecessors, Toy Story 4 dives deep thematically. And while all the previous installments have had positive messages, this one feels more emotionally complex. It really speaks to finding one’s self worth and giving yourself to another, even if that seems like a sacrifice. It also provides insightful commentary on identity and finding your place in the world, even if it’s not what you expected.
What really elevates Toy Story 4 is how they treat their villain. At first, when we meet Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), it feels like something out of The Shining in the best way possible. What we learn is that not everyone is what we think they are on the surface. The way director Josh Cooley was able to humanize all of the toys is outstanding and really surprising.
Pixar’s animation in Toy Story 4 brings the film to life as wonderfully as you could hope. It packs in visual humor along side emotional moments and brings them to the big screen with a sense of magic and wonder. It felt like being a kid again, taking it all in for the very first time. Not every emotional moment hits clean and some feel a bit heavy handed.
Ultimately, the pure charm and joy of the film keep you smiling and laughing from start to finish. In an industry and summer filled with disappointing reboots, blockbusters and sequels, Toy Story 4 stands alone as a wonderful and welcome follow up to a beloved franchise. It’s bone rattling laughter inducing and sure to be the standout family film of the summer.