‘Toy Story 4’ entertains young and young at heart

Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), right, with Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), in “Toy Story 4.”

“Toy Story” has filled the imagination of children with the fantasy of toys coming to life with the famous Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang since 1995. The animated franchise has expanded over the last 24 years with the introduction of new toys, new adventures and the reality that kids grow up and don’t want to play with toys anymore.

With this fourth installment in the series, Pixar delivers a beautifully written storyline filled with new characters and breathtaking scenery. The movie also adds new conflicts, villains and internal struggles that all of our favorite characters encounter, allowing viewers to watch them grow one last time (if this truly is the last installment in the franchise).

Traveling back in time nine years before Andy (John Norris) gives his toys to the next door neighbor Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), toy cowboy and protagonist Woody (Tom Hanks) sees his love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) placed in a box to be given away to another child. Woody begs Bo Peep to come back, but she insists that her time is up with Andy’s sister, Molly, and that she needs to move on to make another child happy. The sad interaction between the two ultimately foreshadows what is to come for the rest of the film.

In present time, Bonnie, who first appeared in “Toy Story 3,” is still playing with all of Andy’s toys, but excludes Woody from playtime, leaving him in the closet to collect dust bunnies. When Woody’s kid, Bonnie, starts kindergarten orientation, she creates her new favorite “toy,” Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with googly eyes, pipe cleaner arms and popsicle stick legs that thinks he is trash. Woody makes it his mission to help Forky learn that he is the encouragement and support that Bonnie needs to get through kindergarten, which starts in a week.

With Bonnie and her parents embarking on a road trip before kindergarten officially starts on which Bonnie brings all of her toys, Woody takes on the responsibility of watching Forky to make sure he doesn’t escape until inevitably, he does. When Woody finds Forky again, he discovers a mysterious antique shop with Bo Peep’s lamp in the window and the two go in search of her, running into new villains that quickly take Forky away. Woody has to find a way to get him back to the RV park before Bonnie and her parents leave them both behind and find Bo Peep, a “lost toy,” in the process.

Pixar helps make this movie more exciting with the introduction of many new characters Woody and his friends encounter. Some of the new and enjoyable characters introduced are Bonnie’s new creation, Forky, who doesn’t understand the concept of being a toy and believes that his home is in the trash, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a pull-string doll with a defective voice box, and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), an Evel Knievel wannabe that has a hard time performing the stunts that he can in his TV commercial. These characters spiced up the movie with their specific quirks but not to the point where they took focus away from appreciating and loving the older, classic characters like Woody and Buzz.

Seeing these characters interact with the outside world introduces a new perspective to the “Toy Story” franchise, as the toys react with wonder to being outside a child’s bedroom. Viewers see that the toys want to experience the outside world as much as humans do, something previous “Toy Story” movies rarely touch on. Since the concept of the “lost toy” is a new feature in this particular installment, it gives the movie a whole new perspective on the toys and their feelings on how they want to live their lives.

I also enjoyed seeing Bonnie’s imagination run wild when she created her new toy, Forky, out of odd and random supplies. Seeing what she creates and also seeing her newfound obsession with Forky helps to remind older filmgoers of childhood and how kids’ minds run wild with new ideas and creations.

The most enjoyable feature of “Toy Story 4” was the rebirth of Bo Peep. Having started out as a sweet, feminine and angelic doll in the first movie, she is reinvented into a strong tomboy renegade that fights for survival and relishes being a “lost toy.” Through her newfound freedom, she appreciates the wonders of a world she would have never seen if she still had a kid to belong to. The reintroduction of Bo added previously missing character development, making her into a more strong, independent female role for young girls to look up to.

The classic voice actors from the start of the franchise, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, have once again brought to life Woody and Buzz in a way that fans will always remember bringing forth witty lines to make you laugh along with emotion-filled lines that will inevitably make you cry. Annie Potts puts on a great performance for her role as Bo, portraying the new and renovated version of Bo Peep since her last appearance in “Toy Story 2.” Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele deliver the humor with their unconventional and wacky characters to give a light-hearted feel to the movie, taking the viewers’ minds off of the central conflict to have a quick laugh before the serious parts of the movie circle back in motion.

Pixar, as always, created jaw-dropping and beautiful scenery in an animated world. There are many moments when Woody and Bo stop and stare at the world around them, taking in all that is around them and appreciating it. From the bright chandeliers on the ceiling of an antique store, to standing on top of the carousel at the travelling carnival in town, to keeping a watchful eye of the very realistic-looking cat roaming around the antique store, viewers can appreciate all of the work that was put into this movie and have the same feeling as the characters when they are witnessing the environment around them. Since the first film that came out more than 20 years ago, the animation quality has significantly increased thanks to new technology.

Although leaving the theater with tear-filled eyes and an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, “Toy Story 4” was everything I expected it to be and more. From immersing myself in the fantasy world of my favorite toy characters with being reminded of my memories from my childhood, this movie was a silly and fun adventure to fill the imaginations of children and even adults who grew up loving the “Toy Story.”

 

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