Only the saga of Toy Story could be bold enough to charge into a fourth film after 24 years and still have that same engaging edge that only grows grander with age. I haven’t outgrown these toys as they always seem to bounce back with more to say and something relatable to pluck a tear. While I can’t speak to whether or not this fourth film is truly the end of the line, I can say for certain that if this is indeed supposed to be the conclusion, it’s one of the best ends to a stellar legacy of films.
What more is there to say about the toys after Toy Story 3? Andy has outgrown them and passes the familiar characters over to the likes of the younger Bonnie. With the more immediate crisis averted of the future of the characters, the hero Woody (Tom Hanks) faces a crisis of where to go next. With Bonnie not favoring Woody as the prime toy at playtime, he’s conflicted about his purpose. He doesn’t feel right when not saving the day or being the center of attention. Back in the Andy age, he’d save toys in desperate need of help. Well, all but Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who we learn had one last emotional goodbye.
But then something amazing happens. There’s a new toy in Bonnie’s room and it’s one she has made herself, a craft by the name of Forky (Tony Hale). Though Forky is so terrified of his own existence that he desires to be thrown out quickly, Woody notes that Bonnie favors Forky for coping with Kindergarten. For Woody, this is great news, as he now has a mission to keep Forky safe and away from trash cans per his suicidal nature.
That’s not all that is bothering Woody and everyone can see it. It’s not just the longing for Bo Beep, which does pay off in an exciting way, but also Woody’s very nature being a liability when he decides to get involved. His methods of never leaving a toy behind turn dangerous out of his rash nature to do what he feels is the right thing. What follows is an adventure with stylish and somber moments that only Pixar can showcase so well.
One of the marvelous elements that remain constant in the Toy Story saga is the brilliant staging of clever and new worlds. The antique shop that Woody stumbles into has a creepy factor with the zombie-like dummy dolls, sure, but the sections behind the many shelves feel list a noir city alley with the darkness and dust. A carnival provides plenty of unique moving parts for the toys to scale. And an RV leaves plenty of room for the toys to get into all sorts of trouble by exploiting every contraption on the vehicle.
Toy Story 4 may seem unneeded as one last adventure for the familiar toys, especially since most of them had their issues resolved in the previous film that the arc of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is essentially comical busywork. But as an epilogue of finding out how Woody is going to cope with the rest of his life, this a stunning entry that is easily one of the best of an already stellar series of animated movies.