Last week my son and I got to watch an early screening of Pixar’s new Toy Story 4 that hits theaters June 21. He was born two years before the first movie came out and as many other of his contemporaries grew up loving the characters. As one with a developed sense of justice, Woody was his personal hero for many years. So, I was curious to see how he’d like the fourth installment, particularly after nine years after watching the third movie.
The new addition to the beloved franchise directed by Josh Cooley is well paced, beautifully animated and hands down hilarious. In fact, it already has already scored an impressive high rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it hasn’t even hit the big screen yet. But make no mistake about it- beneath that glossy layer of colorful characters and action lies a deeper meaning to it all. Toy Story 4 manages to deliver a poignant message of ‘Be True to Yourself’ to its audience.
They may look like toys but the way they feel is totally human
At the beginning of Toy Story 4, Woody faces his first child rejection. And subsequently questions his true purpose in life. Should he stay in his ‘job’ of making his chosen kid happy? Or maybe follow his own aspirations? Like so many kids and adults, Woody fears the unknown, being lonely and even stigmatized as a lost toy.
Bo Peep is Woody’s opposite. In the first and second movie, she tried like Woody to help her owners. But that was then. In the 2019 version post #METOO movement, Bo Peep understands her needs. She is smart, fearless and inspirational. Like most female Disney characters in the last two years, she has become the poster child of female empowerment!
And then there’s Forky who struggles with his identity. Turned overnight from a disposable spork into a favorite toy he is confused which path to take. Should he stay as a favorite toy? Or should he fulfill his destiny and head to the trash?
The Toy Story 4 plot in a nutshell
The movie starts almost exactly where the third movie left off with the Toy Story gang living with their owner a preschooler named Bonnie. Having served as a loyal toy his entire life, Woody now feels old and neglected when Bonnie seems to prefer Jesse and Forky – a makeshift doll made of a disposable spork, popsicle sticks, and stick-on eyes.
In an effort to prove himself useful, Woody assumes the job of watching over Forky. But Forky refuses to cooperate. Since he doesn’t consider himself a toy all he wants is to go into the trash as all disposable utensils do.
Things get more complicated when Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip. With an abundance of trash cans at every pit stop, it is easy for Forky to escape. But he isn’t free for long! He is ultimately captured by Gabby Gabby and her henchmen. This, of course, sets the stage for Woody, Bo Peep and the rest of the gang to launch a military-style rescue operation.
More characters double the fun
As you might expect the movie features many well-known actors and actresses from the previous movies. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Woody, the 1950s style pull-string cowboy while Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear ) Joan Cusack ( Jessie ), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm) and Annie Potts as Bo Peep complete the memorable gang.
But it is actually the new ones that steal the show!
Forky (Tony Hale) as a spork turned toy. Gaby Gaby (Christina Hendrix) as the misguided doll hoping to heal her disability along with two stuffed animals Bunny (Jordan Peele) and Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) that reminded us of the older guys in the Muppets. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the newcomers will get their own movie or TV series spin-off.
With a cleverly written dialogue and plenty of comical moments, both of us enjoyed the movie. Pixar’s genius animation keeps getting better with every movie they produce. As a parent, I loved the fact the movie was devoid of potty jokes and cussing!
But what really kept us interested were the struggles and challenges the main characters Woody, Bo Peep, and Forky faced. My son asked me if I was surprised at how the characters evolved. I sure was and you will be too.
Tips for parents
- The movie is rated PG. It includes no cussing, explicit language or disturbing visuals.
- The only somewhat scary guys in the movie are Gaby Gaby henchmen that resemble the infamous Chucky doll. These scenes are geared more towards the adults who are acquainted with the horror genre than the young kids.
- At 100 minutes it is the perfect length for most kids and adults.
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Visit the official TOY STORY website here: https://movies.disney.com/toy-story-4
TOY STORY 4 opens in theatres everywhere on June 21st!
Disclaimer: Special thanks to Disney Studios for hosting my son and me on the pre-screening event. My opinions are my own and cannot be influenced in any way