In Pixar’s beloved narrative mythology of the “Toy Story” movies, the toys come to life and speak, only when no one including children is present. Screen writers Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom, and story writers John Lassiter, Andrew, and Director Josh Cooley bring Disney’s animated “Toy Story 4” to life once more.
Tom Hanks voices stalwart Cowboy doll Woody, who ‘raised’ grown up Andy. Tim Allen voices bold spaceman toy Buzz Lightyear, the reluctant best friend to Woody. Woody now belongs to kindergartner Bonnie, voiced by innocent Madeline McGraw. Apparently, Woody has been replaced by self-constructed Forky, voiced by youthfully naïve Tony Hale. By the way, Forky is the spork (hybrid spoon and fork) rescued from the trash.
Wide-eyed Woody regretfully confesses to doll Little Bo Beep, played by spirited Annie Potts, about losing Andy and now Bonnie, “I don’t have anything else…” Andy loved Woody, then eventually moved on to college. Bonnie loved Woody. Now she’s moving on to school, with Forky.
Recall Taylor Hackford’s “An Officer and a Gentlemen”, where Louis Gossett’s Sgt. Foley coerces Richard Gere’s Zack Mayo to quit the officers’ training program. Zack tearfully yells, “I got no where else to go… I got nothing else.”
Director Josh’s “Toy Story 4” is Woody’s transformational reckoning, albeit for a toy. Yet, the narrative wonderfully underlies the unique duplicity of “Toy Story”. Children love their favorite toys with all their hearts. In a sense, the toys care for them.
In “Toy Story 4” Woody loves Andy and Bonnie back. Life moves on. Eventually, children shall move on to their next love, be it another toy or new friends.
In one sense, the toys – Woody and Buzz are much like parents on the journey as their children transform into adults. I’m not a parent, yet I see that as our affinity to “Toy Story 4”. What happens when your love is replaced? Rather, what happens when the ones you love so dear move on? Maybe, we too continue to find our next love?
In “Toy Story 4” Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the Toy Band are back together, now with little girl Bonnie. The first 20 minutes occurred as nearly perfunctory storytelling with Bonnie and her Mom and Dad voiced by, solid Lori Alan and Jay Hernandez, taking a family road trip. No doubt, high jinx awaits. Yet, what unfolds is far from predictable, perhaps even poignant.
Woody reunites with Bo Peep (who goes by Bo). Woody has always been in love with Bo. They separated 9 years ago, when Woody chose to stay back to look after Andy. Subsequently, Bo became a “lost toy” – the childless toy.
In the disturbingly bizarre narrative reveal, the broken doll Gabby Gabby, voiced by brazenly vulnerable Christina Hendricks, generates surprising gravitas. Her ‘voice box’ unlike pull string Woody, no longer works. Gabby Gabby resides in an antique toy shop, accompanied by her eerie ventriloquist doll squad. These dolls are extremely creepy. Nearly distracting. Really.
Yet, on the upside we observe Gabby Gabby’s incomplete toy life. Christina brilliantly nuances Gabby such that we get a sense of what she wants most: To be loved. That’s the human eloquence of “Toy Story 4”: We all deserve to be loved.
The Pixar crew’s animation in “Toy Story 4” astounds from the emergence of Forky or the Toys tampering with the accelerator pedals on the speeding family rental van. Comic relief arises in the carnival stuffed animals, Ducky and Bunny voiced by hysterical Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Renaissance movie icon Keanu Reeves practically highjacks every scene he’s in as Evel Knievel-lite stunt biker toy Duke Caboom. No one commands “Whoa.” – like Keanu.
In the end “Toy Story 4” touches our hearts, because of the history and partnership of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Everyone deserves to be loved, even a toy. When Buzz says to Woody, “She’ll be okay…” We get it. We do, because we love.
I loved “Toy Story 4”. It’s something very special.