'Toy Story 4' Review: An Existential, Emotional and Forking Hilarious Addition to the Franchise
By John Boone
Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios
If Toy Story 3 was for everyone who grew up watching the adventures of Woody the cowboy and Buzz Lightyear but now had to learn to say goodbye and leave their childhoods behind, then Toy Story 4 (out June 21) is for the subsequent existential crisis: Who am I? Where do I belong? What am I doing with my life?
It's there in Forky, the pipe cleaner-armed spork brought to life by Bonnie during kindergarten arts and crafts, who must come to terms with what it means to suddenly be a sentient toy and no longer trash. But the Forky of it all is ultimately a way to get to the larger story of Woody, as he reunites with Bo Peep and learns he may have a greater purpose in life.
Toy Story 4 begins in the past (sometime roughly between the events of Toy Story 2 and 2010's threequel) as Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) is sent away to a new home and a new kid. When Woody (the great Tom Hanks) crosses paths with the shepherdess all these years later, during a road trip with Bonnie's family, Bo Peep has fully embraced life as a lost toy and forces Woody to reconsider everything he thought he knew. For a movie about talking toys, it's borderline cerebral.
There's plenty for the kiddies, too, who are ostensibly filling out the rest of the theater: Eye-popping lights and colors and toys dipping and diving into frame, including instantly classic new additions like Tony Hale's nutty Forky, Keanu Reeves' Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom, and the scene-stealing carnival toys Ducky and Bunny (Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key).
Toy Story 4 is directed by franchise newcomer Josh Cooley, from an original story by Cooley, John Lasseter, Rashida Jones and more, and though it does have its own thing going on -- it's the funniest installment in the series, for one, with a willingness to go bigger and bolder and riskier places with humor than ever before -- it still feels immediately familiar. Sure, because all our old friends (Jessie and Rex and Mr. Potato Head and the rest) are back, but also because it packs that emotional wallop you've come to expect. With perhaps more sense of finality than even its predecessor had, Toy Story 4 is a poignant, riotous, blast of an addition to the franchise that leaves you teary in the theater, watching as these playthings grapple with the hard truths of their little lives.