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Film Review: Toy Story 4: It’s OK to Let Go

Toy Story 4 theatrical release poster (photo/AgWoolridge via Wikimedia)

This is an installment of a regular thisistheBronX film/TV review series by Bronx film reviewer and writer Adam McPartlan. Check back every Friday for Adam’s film reviews.

FILM REVIEW – by Adam McPartlan

June 28, 2019

The first Toy Story movie was released almost a quarter of a century ago. Since then, it has become the most successful animated franchise, and one of the most successful film franchises overall. The series has taught audiences of all ages that toys not just deserve respect and love as if they have their own lives, but that all toys WANT that love. 

Toy Story 4 jumps right on that train, reminding the audience of the love Andy had for his toys in the first three films, and the heartache of him passing his toys on to Bonnie. Now in a new home, Woody realizes he is not needed the way he used to be, and finds himself looking for a new purpose. Bonnie reluctantly starts kindergarten, and after seeing her crying under her bed, Woody sneaks into her backpack to make sure she has a great first day. After covertly helping Bonnie through the day, Woody returns home with Bonnie’s creation: Forky. Made out of trash, Forky continuously tries to go back to the garbage, since he is made of trash and has completed his purpose. Woody spends a great deal of time trying to convince him that he is a toy and is loved and needed by Bonnie.

The only thing missing from this film is more Don Rickles, who sadly passed away before filming started. That didn’t stop the filmmakers from putting in previously unused dialogue of his. Hanks, Allen, and the return of Annie Potts as Bo Peep make this film incredibly enjoyable. New additions Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, Keegan Michael-Key, and Jordan Peele, as Forky, a defective doll, and two plush toys long un-won as carnival prizes, add new layers of hilarity, sadness, and joy to the film series.

The true beauty of this film, though, lies in the story and script. While the first three movies deal almost exclusively with the needs of children and a toy’s desire to be loved by a kid, this movie takes a turn off that road and gets philosophical. Buzz starts to understand what it means to have a conscience and listening to his inner voice instead of following the lead of his friend. Sometimes, dolls (and people) should take another chance; they just need a little encouragement. In the case of Forky, what you were made for is not always all you are meant for. Losing a limb doesn’t mean you lose what makes you you. But all these philosophical topics weren’t enough for one film.

This installment tackles the ultimate question all people face (and most kids ask their parents): what is the meaning of life? What is our purpose? In their world, all toys have a loyalty to their kids and the need to make them happy. Woody is left in a closet for three days in a row, and it leaves him so distraught that he looks for another way to help Bonnie be happy. During a conversation later, he admits he cares so much about helping Forky because there’s nothing left for him now that he isn’t the favorite toy. 

So now that the question has been posed, all that’s left for the fourth film in a long established animation franchise is to answer it in a way that kids will understand. No pressure right? Well…for whoever of the 10 people involved with the story came up with the specific idea, it was a success. Woody realizes that toys can have more than one goal in life, more than one ambition, and most importantly, more than one desire. Free of his constraints to Andy, who has long grown up, and Bonnie, assured by Buzz that she’ll be okay, he can pursue something new (and someone old). And instead of helping kids be happy and taking care of them, he turns instead to taking care of the toys who long for the love of kids and helping them find homes. So kids, according to Toy Story 4, the meaning of life is whatever good you and your friends can do with it.

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Adam McPartlan is a graduate student in the Sports Broadcasting Program at Sacred Heart University. He’s a life-long Bronxite with a deep love of film, television, and writing.

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