Warming And Poignant;
Pixar Has Done It Again;
Hold on, let me wipe the tears from my eyes so I can see the screen to write this…
Ok, now I’m good. I think.
Like everyone else, when this was announced I had the same thought: Why? Why make another entry, after Toy Story 3 completed one of the best trilogies ever made? What could its purpose be, all these years later? But it turns out that not only is this a fantastic film that in hindsight was a necessary addition, but that question was also the driving force behind Woody’s arc. Andy has grown up, and before they know it, the toys will watch Bonnie do the same. So what could Woody’s purpose be?
As usual, Woody acts with one singular purpose at all times: he must do what is best for his kid. Sometimes it’s as small as keeping an arts and crafts project out of the trash. Sometimes it’s a full-blown, high stakes adventure that starts with jumping from a moving vehicle and only grows more perilous from there. Whatever his kid (formerly Andy, now Bonnie) needs, he throws himself at the task full force, with the added pressure of trying never to he spotted by humans while carrying out his heroic charge. This is his lot in life. But after saying goodbye to Andy and realizing that Bonnie may prefer the other toys over him, he’s left to consider his purpose. Although he has a home, in a sense he is slowly becoming a lost toy. Lost to time, being a product of the 50s cowboy craze, and lost to his new kid. But his purpose is strengthened when he sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack for kindergarten orientation and she crafts a new toy named Forky out of a spork and some pipe cleaners. Brought to life, somehow, he has a full-on identity crisis (“I’m not a toy, I’m trash!”) and Woody is there to help him through it. Not just for Forky, for Bonnie. For the anxiety that each will suffer if they don’t have each other. So neither toy nor kid will feel as lost as he does. Because he is Woody and that’s what he does.
Seriously. Find someone as loyal in real life as Woody is to everyone around him. Befriend them, marry them. Whatever. Just don’t lose them.
The lost and found theme is prevalent throughout, especially as the gang arrives at a carnival that sees a longtime reuniting and others, both toy and human alike, that just need some companionship. Some direction. A purpose. Like the one Woody has.
Pixar absolutely excels at making movies for kids to laugh with and enjoy on the surface level while silently destroying their parents and our fragile emotional states. This is no different, especially as Woody draws clear parallels to parental struggles and anxieties while dishing out advice and wisdom to the (reluctant) newest member of the group. He is voicing our same concerns about our kids and how we will fit into their lives as they grow and it just twists your insides in knots. But then you look at them and they just smile, popcorn in their teeth and melted chocolate on their fingers and you just silently move on.
Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I don’t think I am. Pixar does an amazing job of telling these stories in exciting and accessible ways, inviting the kids to enjoy the tip of the iceberg above the water line and forcing the parents to examine the mountain of emotional weight under the surface. It’s brilliant, and the fact that they just keep making it look so effortless is stunning.
Of course, the animation is absolutely gorgeous (having watched the entire series this week, seeing the transformation as technology took great strides was incredible). Whether it’s a kid’s bedroom, an antique store or a fair, a quiet walk or full-blown action, everything looks wonderfully alive and full of character. The voice work is great as always, with the mainstays (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Wallace Shawn, especially) doing exactly what we expect, giving us great lines and infusing the scenes with pitch-perfect emotion. But the universe expands this time around, with awesome performances from Key and Peele, as well as Keanu Reeves. All three nail their characters perfectly and bring some of the best laughs of the film. If you don’t put your kids to bed yelling PLUSH RUSH and pelting them with stuffed animals after this, you’re not doing it right.
Yes, at first I may have questioned the existence of this film. My emotional core had been through enough after the third installment. But like a kid needs the stability of a loyal toy, I never knew how badly I needed this film. It took me everywhere that needed to be explored.
Have you seen Toy Story 4? What did you think? Drop a comment below and head over to our Facebook Community for much more discussion!