In 1995, Pixar’s Toy Story took Hollywood by storm. With an affable cast, ground-breaking CGI, and fresh plot lines, the film was a pioneer in many respects. My friend told me that Toy Story amazed him, since this offered a marked departure from the norm of hand-drawn animation. Fast forward fifteen years later and who could forget the heart-warming third instalment? There was barely a dry eye in the theatre when the curtains fell. Yesterday, my pal and I saw the much-hyped Toy Story 4. This was the second weekend of release, but the production still commanded a huge audience. After all, this represents the first Toy Story production in nine years. No wonder, it topped the domestic box office, taking in over $100 million. Strong word of mouth also contributed to this ringing success, having received near-universal acclaim.
This edition follows Woody as he goes on an arduous road trip. His new kid, Bonnie, is bound for kindergarten where she has trouble blending in from the start. The banning of toys in class only serves to make Bonnie lonelier. During orientation, she crafts a new friend out of rudimentary materials and names him ‘Forky’. Despite his appearance, she immediately becomes beholden with her new toy. Woody sees this right away and his loyalty is astounding. He always seeks to make Bonnie happy, despite Forky’s absolute lack of care towards the latter. Forky is always trying to escape, leaving Woody exhausted in his numberless attempts to rescue the former. He knows that his kid would keep looking for Forky, and he wants nothing less than to make her smile. When he presents Forky to the group, he tells them that Bonnie ‘literally MADE a friend’.
The movie becomes a road trip with Woody and friends attempting to find missing buddies and reconnecting with long lost chums. They make a backstory of the old character Bo Peep and how she got away. I reckon that this was a clever use of plot device. Bo Peep shows us that toys are not invincible and age just as humans do. A lot has changed in the seven years since Bo Peep was gone. However, she was able to make new friends and stayed positive. Though she has relocated, she has never forgotten Woody, Jessie, or Buzz.
There are new faces who breathe new life into the franchise. Ducky (played by maverick filmmaker Jordan Peele) and Bunny, who crosses paths with Buzz, are good for some comic relief. The aforementioned Forky might not be super-smart but his indecisiveness and lack of humanity make him a joy to watch. There’s also Duke Caboom, ‘a Canadian daredevil toy’. He gets introduced in a bar scene. How they ended up in a bar is something that eludes both me and my friend. Nick claims that it could be a place for discarded toys. I was surprised to find out that Keanu Reeves portrayed Duke; I forgot that he was in this picture.
A worn doll named Gabby Gabby is the exception. Unappreciated, she finds as much information about Woody’s group as possible. Forky becomes the unwitting pawn. She covets what Woody has, but how far will she go? She moves heaven and earth to get what she wants, even employing a cat and a few cronies. Once she gets this, will she be satisfied? I highly doubt that. She might realise an emptiness that she never anticipated. Like all feel-good movies though, she must stand by to meet her match. Knowing the Toy Story trend, she might just will.
Not much farther
The film altogether was funny and visually stunning. Indeed, the remarkable landscaping gave my friend pause. The director, Josh Cooley, also gave us an unconstrained ending, an apex that keeps you guessing. I told Nick that I still thought the third one was better. ‘It was funnier’, he said. Still, this version wasn’t much farther behind its predecessor, and was clearly the best June release of the year. Delicioso.