We have grown up alongside Sheriff Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and a variety of memorable toys. The Toy Story series has been like a metaphor for us in life, and our emotional attachment to these lovable characters has grown through the years. Nine years ago, we collectively wept as Toy Story 3 concluded, but now everyone is back in Toy Story 4, except, of course, Andy, who has moved on. But can this installment still ignite the feelings that we last had nine years ago?
Woody lives with his new child, Bonnie, but as she prepares for kindergarten, he no longer has favored toy status. Woody, bound by his desire to please his child, wants nothing but the best for Bonnie. When Bonnie creates a new toy from leftover craft pieces, including a spork, Woody becomes the principle caretaker of Bonnie’s happiness and of Forky (Tony Hale), Bonnie’s new favorite toy who thinks he’s a piece of trash.
As the toys and the family go on a vacation, it takes everything that Woody has to keep Forky from the trash, Forky’s special place where he feels warm and comfortable. Woody has to explain that Bonnie will give Forky all that and more, and it’s Forky’s job to be her toy.
When the journey leads Woody to his long-lost love Bo Peep (Annie Potts), he takes a bit of a detour and finds himself needing his friends to survive. Will life be the same, or is it about to take a turn for everyone?
As a film critic for over 20 years, I have watched the evolution of Woody, Buzz and the entire gang as they became an integral part of a family, our family. We want them to succeed, we want Bonnie to enjoy school and we want to experience the feeling with them.
Visually, this film is stunning — Pixar knows how to do animation. The true shining moments lie in the detail that exists in some of the seemingly mundane pieces of the film. From dust bunnies to the area behind cabinets, I totally believed everything the animators brought to life.
Despite the splendid animation, after three amazing Toy Story films that ranged from roll-on-the-floor funny to emotionally gut-wrenching, I never really felt the powerful connection with Toy Story 4. As emotional moments hit crescendos, the feelings were muted compared to previous films in the franchise. And that was despite me wanting to shower the film with love.
The metaphors for life that still exist at the heart of Toy Story 4 help the warm fuzzies remain. A bit of laughter, a lot of love and a lot of heart overcome the flaws that exist. Thanks Woody, Buzz and all the rest — it’s been a memorable ride, and we still love you all. I’m just glad they stopped toying with my heartstrings. Woody, Buzz and the gang still have got a friend in me.
Toy Story 4 is available on Demand and on DVD beginning Oct. 8. Check your cable system for availability