Quick, name a truly great fourth installment in a movie series. Aside from Rocky 4, I mean.
Pixar released Toy Story 24 years ago and, as their first feature, it was revolutionary. Not just because of its extraordinary animation, but also because of its emotional heft—it wasn’t the first movie to address real, difficult emotions in a way both kids and adults could relate to, but it was one of the best. That’s a market Pixar has cornered, and now, here is Toy Story 4—and while I have to acknowledge that it isn’t a particularly necessary movie, I also must say I’m so very glad they made it.
We’re reminded that Woody and friends moved on from their first owner, Andy, to a new child, Bonnie, in the last film. And we start the movie as Bonnie enters kindergarten, and while there, makes a new toy, Forky, out of a spork and some googly eyes. As Forky is her only friend on this first day of school, he is instantly Bonnie’s most important toy.
Forky doesn’t quite feel this way, insisting he is not a toy, he is trash, in an existential crisis that I imagine makes a lot of the adult audience truly feel seen. It’s certainly a funny sequence, but what at first seems to be a solid, persistent gag reveals itself to be far more complex.
And this is just one of the movie’s many emotional journeys, which also cover our relationship to disappointment, being forced to find new beginnings in unexpected endings, learning to let go and do what’s needed for other people to grow, and recognizing that even those who appear to be villains contain multitudes we must allow ourselves to understand.
And I’ve said all of this without even mentioning how eye-poppingly stunning the animation is. Toy Story 4 ranks among the best Pixar has to offer, and if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that’s about as good as it gets.