This is a series where we don't mind sequels, because now the
characters have themselvs become part of our shared pop culture.
Who doesn't love Tom Hanks' mellifluous voice as Woody, the cowboy
with a conscience? And who
hasn't quoted Tim Allen's fanciful voicing of Buzz Lightyear's slogan,
“To infinity and beyond!” The
original premise still charms: the
toys come to life when the people aren't around, and each toy has its own
unique personality, from the insecurity of the old dinosaur to the false
bravado of Duke Kaboom, the Evil Kneivel-like daredevil (voiced by Keanu
Yes, there's a plot, but it's really more a series of tableaus.
We're first invited to a rerun of that poignant moment when Woody
and Buzz and all their buddies are summarily boxed up and given away,
because the kids of the house, Andy and Molly, have grown up now, and have
put away their toys. Naturally,
the toys await their assignment to a new set of kids, but some of the toys
remain unclaimed, and have to deal with being without an attachment to a
human. Some handle this better
than others; some feeling “lost” in their singularity, and others
developing a fierce independence (is this a commentary on single
Woody and his gang have a new kid now, Bonnie, but she's a lot
different from their previous experience.
She ignores them for long enough periods that they develop dust
bunnies. When Bonnie
reluctantly goes to kindergarten, she makes a “forky” out of a plastic
spork, with pipe cleaners for arms and wooden ice cream spoons for feet.
“Forky” (the voice of Tony Hale) becomes her new favorite, even
though his instinct is to keep jumping into the trash can, because that's
where he feels most comfortable. Woody
tries to explain to him about how important it is that he understand how
much Bonnie needs him for her comfort (is this a social commentary on how
much we humans bounce between personal isolationism and social
Of course, being Disney, there's a touch of the sinister lurking.
Bonnie's family visits an RV Park with an old antique store nearby.
Inside it is Bonnie (the voice of Madeleine McGraw), who presides
over some creepy-looking Howdy-Doody dolls.
Her voicebox is broken, and she thinks if she can get it fixed, she
will be claimed and loved at last. The
problem is that she wants to rip Woody's voice box out of him to fix her
own (is this a social commentary about bad people taking things from
others just because they can?)
There's a couple of interesting little existential tidbits here,
among all the cartoonish screenplay. When
Forky asks why he's alive, Woody answers, “I don't know.”
(Insert your theology here.) And
when Buzz Lightyear tries to figure out what to do, Woody tells him to
listen to his inner voice. Comically,
Buzz tries tapping his own voicebox, where he hears things like “That's
an asteroid field.” or “Return to base.”
These become like fortune-telling in the eight-ball, as Buzz
attempts to follow an “inner voice” that doesn't necessarily apply to
At the end, Woody struggles with whether his rightful place is
being a toy for a kid, or following his personal attraction for Bo Peep
(the voice of Annie Potts). And
how will his choices affect the rest of his buddies?
“Toy Story 4” doesn't make the same emotional connection with
the viewers as its predecessors, but it's still highly engaging, and most
suitable for all ages.