Movie Review: 'Toy Story 4'

A toy’s greatest joy in life is to be cherished and cared for by a child.
Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises & Pixar
Bo Peep, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Bunny and Ducky escape from an antique store, where ventriloquist dolls attempt to hold them hostage.

“Toy Story 4” is about Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Little Bo Peep and a new toy friend named Forky embarking on a road-trip adventure. Woody is no longer a favorite toy, but he has a new purpose in life: To rescue lost toys and put them in the hands of caring children. The movie is creative, funny and heartwarming, although there are a few scary moments that may frighten sensitive children.

The Story

The story begins with Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks,) Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the other toy friends being given away to 5-year-old named Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). The toys are happy about being in a new home where they will be loved and played with, however, their friend Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts) went to a different home, and they’re sad they may not see “Bo” anymore.

Meanwhile, Bonnie is nervous about going to kindergarten. Sheriff Woody hides inside Bonnie’s backpack so he can go to kindergarten with her. At school, a little boy takes Bonnie’s crayons and art supplies and she starts to cry. Woody manages to toss some art supplies on Bonnie’s desk. That’s when Bonnie makes a figurine out of a plastic spork, pipe cleaners, wooden craft sticks, putty and googly eyes. She names him Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) and he becomes Bonnie’s new favorite toy.

Like the other toys in this movie, Forky comes to life when humans aren’t watching. The concept of being a toy is alien to Forky. He keeps jumping into trashcans because he assumes that’s where he belongs. Comically, Sheriff Woody keeps saving him because he wants Forky to be there for Bonnie. Woody reminds Forky that a toy’s greatest joy in life is to be cherished and cared for by a child.

Bonnie and her parents embark on a one-week summer vacation in their RV. Predictably, Forky tries to run away and jumps into the garbage, which he thinks is a safe and comfortable place. Woody rescues Forky and slowly helps Forky understand that it’s his responsibility to be there for Bonnie. 

Bonnie and her family park their RV near a carnival fairground. Woody and Forky  try to catch up with them, and they pass an antique shop. Woody sees Bo Peep’s lampstand inside the shop, and they sneak inside to find her.

Inside the antique shop, Woody and Forky are captured by some Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dolls in tuxedos. The ventriloquist dolls push a red-haired doll named Gabby-Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) in a baby carriage. It turns out that Gabby-Gabby has a defective voice box and that’s why she hasn’t been adopted by a child. Now Gabby-Gabby wants to take Woody’s voice box by force. There are some scary moments where Woody escapes, but Forky is captured. Fortunately, Bo Peep comes to the rescue, swinging, flipping and somersaulting through the air as she leaps from shelves. Together, they make a fast getaway with the help of Canadian stunt motorcyclist Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves).

What Parents Should Know 

“Toy Story 4” is rated G and it’s a wholesome family movie. The only thing that might frighten children is the peril and danger that Woody and Forky experience when the ventriloquist dummies hold them hostage.

I watched this movie with a 7-year-old girl, her mom and grandmother. The 7-year-old girl enjoyed the comradery of the characters, especially Woody and Bo Peep. They are truly friends who care and look out for each other. It’s exciting when Bo Peep rescues Woody, although Woody is not a wimp, he can hold his own weight and rescues other toys, like Forky. Bo Peep lives an adventurous, independent life and it’s really funny when she rides around in a race car disguised as a skunk. 

 The movie becomes slightly dark and sinister when the ventriloquist dolls show up. When I watched the movie, the 7-year-old sitting next to me whispered, “They’re kind of creepy! I don’t know if they can be trusted or not. They could be a friend, but they could also be a foe.” 

Yes, that’s part of the dramatic tension of the movie, not knowing how things will turn out, and if the dummies are friends or foes. It makes for a very suspenseful climax.

In case you’re wondering, the ventriloquist dolls don’t say anything mean or do bad things. They are the only villains in this movie. Of course, sensitive children might be frightened when Woody and Forky are captured and held hostage, but it’s nothing more than what you’d see in a Saturday morning cartoon.

(Spoiler alert) In one scene, Woody falls asleep and wakes up with stitches in his back. Gabby-Gabby has removed his voice box and is now using it as her own. It may be a little disturbing for some children, although Woody doesn’t seem to mind. He can still communicate with Bo Peep and the other toys, it’s just that drawstring in his back no longer “talks.” The story quickly transitions to a happy ending for Gabby-Gabby as she is adopted by an affectionate little girl.  

Final Take

One of the best things about “Toy Story 4” is the inner journey of the main characters. Each toy begins as one sort of person and gradually transform into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story. For instance, Sheriff Woody feels it’s his purpose in life to rescue others but is humbled when Bo Peep rescues him. Bo Peep is a loner, but later realizes there’s room in her heart for love. Forky ​is confused about his true purpose — toy versus trash — but eventually realizes that he is a valuable toy. Stuntman Duke Caboom is crippled by fear of rejection, but he eventually gets over his fears and becomes the stuntman he was always meant to be.

The movie characters repeatedly tell us there’s nothing better for a toy than to be loved, played with, and treasured by children. Toys create happy memories that can last for lifetime. There is a bittersweet realization that children eventually grow up and no longer play with their favorite toys. Overall, “Toy Story 4” is an exciting, entertaining and enjoyable film.