4 Stars – Wholesome
The fourth film of the Toy Story franchise is a masterpiece of story telling. Using elements from the previous three films, Toy Story 4 invites us to enjoy not only the beloved toys of Andy and Bonnie, but also to step back and see how the films have changed over the last 24 years since Toy Story was released in 1995. The two male toys, Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voice by Tim Allen) remain an integral part, but the true heroine of the film is Little Bo Peep (voice by Annie Potts). Having been separated from the other toys nine years earlier, causing a romantic emptiness for Woody, she has not followed either the nefarious path of some rejected toys or the pathetic depression of others. She has created a kind of Peter Pan tribe of lost toys and engages the world on her own terms. This shift in the series from male heroes to include a female one is clearly a trend in current cinema at large and perhaps reflective of our healthy empowerment of women within the western world.
The ensemble of toys remains roughly the same and their relationship with Bonnie (voice by Madeleine McGraw) clearly resembles the playful imagination we saw with Andy (voice by Jack McGraw). We also see the same familiar theme showing Bonnie growing older and now must go to kindergarten without a toy. But in this film we have an additional ingredient of a toy brought to life by the creative impulses of a child. In her first school day Bonnie creates a toy from a plastic utensil found in the trash. She names him Forky (voice by Tony Hale). But Forky knows he is “trash.” This begins a fascinating identity journey as Woody must both navigate being less attractive to a growing girl and supporting both Bonnie and Forky in their unique relationship.
Reminiscent of Toys Story 3 where Lotso the bear (voice by Ned Beatty) created a Mafioso type of society within the Sunnyside Daycare center, Woody discovers that his missing love, Bo Peep has been victimized by a lonely doll named Gabby Gabby (voice by Christina Hendricks). Created to speak by drawing a string in her back, she is defective and rejected by the children she so wants to love. Creating a creepy army of ventriloquist’s dummies Gabby is intent on taking the voice mechanism out of Woody so she can now fulfill her gabby identity and find love. It is primarily around both Forky and Gabby that the story revolves.
As in the previous films, the parents and children are oblivious to the world of the toys, but the toys’ love and loyalty for the children is admirable. When these two characteristics are combined with courage and resourcefulness then the story becomes both engaging and entertaining as we come to care about child and toy alike. Love, loyalty, courage and resourcefulness are characteristics that will not only help us live out our purpose but also to find fulfillment of our identity.
Be sure and stay for the credits to enjoy the escapades of the toys on their own in the wild and their plans to get toys into the hands of children who can love them. It further reveals both the purpose for which they were created but also the ability to love each other.
1. When Bonnie created Forky she endued him with life, though she did not know it. What do you think the film is saying about the creation of life? Is life forged out of love or is love the result of creation? The fact that Forky is neither electronic or beautiful does not matter to Bonnie since he is her creation. What does that say about beauty and value?
2. Woody’s decision to risk everything so that Bonnie can be happy implies that he is capable of doing so. Are we capable to making someone else happy? Why do you answer as you do?
3. Evil within the toy world comes from the rejection of children and the lost toys turn on other toys to salve that pain. Do you think this is similar to evil in the world of human beings?