Here’s something you’ve never heard before: the Toy Story franchise as a whole is a bit like the movie Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It’s got more endings than you can count and each one will make you cry for a different reason.
I had considered the saga most recently closed when Andy bestowed all his favorite toys to Bonnie at the end of Toy Story 3, and I somehow managed to pick myself up and move on with my life after the trauma. But here we are again, re-opening forgotten wounds and breaking my heart all over.
That’s not a spoiler—if you don’t expect to at least tear up at the end of these movies you are either a fool or a robot.
I won’t give anything away, but as you can see from the poster this movie strays away from the established core group of friends to concentrate on Woody, Bo Peep and, to a lesser extent Buzz, and a new group of toys that might be best described as frenemies? Seriously, the Benson character is so creepy he leaves you open to the idea that the upcoming Annabelle or Chucky movies could be legitimate installments in this universe (to say nothing of the fact that Forky has to straight up be put on suicide watch).
So how is it that Pixar gets us to care about these inanimate animated objects over and over again? Because every person can relate to multiple points in the script and Toy Story 4 is no exception. Everybody has the beloved toy they threw out; everybody has the one they kept forever; everybody knows what it’s like to be shelfed by someone they love; everybody knows how scary it is to move on from something comfortable; everybody is terrified of being forgotten; everybody knows the joy of being important to someone who loves them. These movies are like a slightly cheaper therapy session with popcorn and a Coke ICEE.
Obviously, you don’t need me to tell you to go see this movie and obviously you’re going to love it, although maybe not as much other installments, or maybe more; but if (let’s face it…when) you see it you will be rewarded with yet another satisfying final chapter in the lives of Woody and friends. And for the record, they manage do this encore finale without it feeling forced or exhausting (unlike Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
I will say this one spoiler-free thing since I’m supposed to at least give you some insight into the movie. The hands down MVP, Rookie of the Year or whatever the appropriate sports analogy is for the new toy on the block goes to Christina Hendricks’s Gabby Gabby. She brought together a storyline that was as villainous as Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear’s, as tragic as Jessie’s and as heroic as Buzz’s all in a simple, haunting voice over. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give props to Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who’s Ducky and Bunny managed to remind me of my beloved and all-time-favorite Stitch in that scene where he constructed a model of San Francisco just so he could imagine himself terrorizing it.
Last, but not least in the character commentary, I’m not sure what Bonnie’s dad did to Buttercup the Unicorn (I’m guessing stepped on him one too many times), but their relationship is hilarious.
As for the animation, what do you expect me to say? It’s Disney-Pixar. It was flawless, gorgeous and would be considered photo-realistic if only real life was as pretty. I could almost smell the musty air in the antique shop. It was also full of Easter eggs, one that lends support to the fan theory that Cars exists in a post-apocalyptic world where humans no longer exist. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had seen the grand opening of a Buy-N-Large.
You will love this movie—go see it right now. And stay to the very, very end of the credits.