Warning: Major spoilers for Toy Story 4 ahead!
Toy Story 4 unwraps in theaters nationwide this weekend, and anticipation for it is... well, as high and enthusiastic as you'd expect for a Toy Story movie. Disney-Pixar's original trilogy grossed almost $2 billion worldwide, and the latest critically acclaimed adventure — which finds Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and friends on a road trip with their new kindergartener owner Bonnie and family — is projected to once again add serious coin to the piggy bank.
Before (or after) packing up your own family for a trip to the cineplex, check out 8 good-to-know (and super-spoilery) tidbits about Pixar's latest gem.
Why'd they make a fourth Toy Story? Didn't No. 3 wrap up the trilogy perfectly?
You already know the real answer to this question: It's green and rhymes with "honey" (just see above). With live action remakes of Disney animated classics coming out the wazoo and new Star Wars and Marvel vehicles landing on an annual basis, Disney is a certifiable IP machine—one that's really, really good at generating the green stuff for its shareholders.
But let's be less cynical for a moment and talk about the artistic merits of a fourth installment. Yes, 2010's Toy Story 3 did perfectly wrap up a trilogy, or at least how it pertained to the arc of our beloved playthings’ relationship with longtime owner Andy, who passed them on to young Bonnie during that film's tearjerking climax. But according to ousted ex-Pixar chief John Lasseter (who directed the first two Toy Story films), once he and other company brass like Andrew Stanton, Peter Docter and Lee Unkrich came up with a story for a fourth installment, they "could not stop thinking about it." (Lasseter was originally slated to direct.)
Toy Story has been the flagship franchise for Pixar after the first movie put them on the map in 1995, so it's understandable that they'd want to continue breathing life into these characters. And at this point, we've learned a dozen times over not to doubt the masterminds behind Up, Inside Out, Ratatouille, etc etc etc. While some fans may have been justifiably a bit trepidatious in thinking a fourth chapter could be too much of a good thing, Pixar has once again come through with another triumph. Toy Story 4, currently humming with a 98 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is one of the best chapters yet.
What sets this one apart most?
While every Toy Story (including this one) qualifies as an "adventure," the fourth chapter was conceived as a romantic comedy that focuses on the relationship between Woody and Bo Peep (Annie Potts). It was clear Bo crushed on Woody in the first two movies, but the feelings never felt fully reciprocated until we saw the heartbroken way Woody reacted to a mention that Bo had been given away prior to the start of Toy Story 3. The opening moments of Toy Story 4 show exactly what happened to Bo: given to another family after Andy’s sister decides she doesn’t need her anymore. Ultimately, the movie fulfills that initial rom-com promise by crafting a sweet and convincing love story between the two.
Even with a new dash of romance, Toy Story 4 has to qualify as a comedy above all else. And we’re happy to report that the film is flat-out hilarious—easily the funniest installment yet—to the point where critics who screened the film early bemoaned that they missed out on a good chunk of dialogue due to all the laughter in the theater. And when Yahoo Entertainment attended the film’s premiere, one of our daughters asked us to stop laughing so loudly because they couldn't hear some lines.
How did it get to be that funny? Credit first and foremost has to go to the writers, which at one point included Parks and Recreation alum Rashida Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack, who previously collaborated on the indie romance Celeste and Jesse Forever. (Jones and McCormack left the project in November 2017, with Jones referencing Pixar's not-so-gleaming track record on hiring women and minorities in a subsequent interview.)
The film also feels distinct in its visual aesthetic—it's littered with sight gags—which has to be credited to director Josh Cooley, who was given the reins on Toy Story 4 after working in the story department on Inside Out among other Pixar hits. Cooley is also one of eight writers who receive a story credit on the film, with Stanton and Stephany Folsom received final screenwriting credits. Last but not least, there are some truly gut-busting new characters, which brings us to…
Who is this "Forky" guy I keep hearing about?
In addition to the usual suspects, Toy Story 4 features such new voices as Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, and the dynamic duo of Jordan Peele and Keegan- Michael Key. But it's Forky—voiced by Veep veteran Tony Hale—who is stealing the hearts of Toy Story 4 viewers everywhere. Made up of a spork (why he's not called Sporky remains a mystery), a red pipe cleaner and various other odds and ends, Forky immediately becomes Bonnie's most important toy...even if he's a distinctly lo-fi creation.
He also gives Woody a renewed sense of purpose. Forky, you see, is suffering from a severe existential crisis. He believes he’s meant to be used once and thrown out (environmental message!), and it's up to Woody and gang to convince him that he is now, in fact, a beloved toy with a purpose. Played to pitch perfection by Hale, this lovably neurotic quickly establishes himself as a toy no one wants to see lost. Trust us when we tell you that you and your kids will be randomly screaming "Trash!" for days after seeing.
Who do Key & Peele play?
Four years after the end of their brilliant Comedy Central sketch series—and three years after the entertaining, if underseen Keanu—we finally have another legit Key & Peele joint. The pair don't just co-star: they're literally a tandem act throughout the film's story. Ducky (Key) and Bunny (Peele) are two carnival prizes desperate for a kid to snatch them up when they're unwittingly drawn into Woody's plot to rescue Forky from creepy antique shop-dwelling doll, Gabby Gabby (Hendricks). In what's surely a surprise to no one, they're responsible for some of the film's biggest laughs. Peele recently extended those laughs to Twitter where he called Bunny "My favorite rabbit in a film this year”—a sly reference to all those four-legged furballs that turned up in his sophomore horror hit, Us.
How awesome is Keanu Reeves?
In case you had any lingering doubts, Toy Story 4 confirms that Keanu Reeves Canada-do everything. The actor -- who grew up in Toronto -- continues his epic 2019 by voicing the Canadian answer to Evel Knievel: Duke Caboom. Sporting a patriotic red-and-white outfit and an awesome mutton-chop mustache, Duke looks the part of a late ‘70s stunt biker. But Reeves invests so much earnest emotion in the character as well, which making him more than a one-trick pony...uh, motorcycle rider.
As we discover, Duke has painful tragedy in his past: his first owner rejected him when it became clear that the Duke Caboom commercials exaggerated the jumping abilities of the toy version. That fear that he’ll never be good enough has stayed in his head ever since, preventing him from soaring through the air like a stunt rider should. But Duke eventually proves himself worthy of the Caboom name, performing a death-defying leap in the film’s climax that saves the day...and gives Neo a run for his money in the “leaping between tall things” department.
How much will you cry?
Fair warning: your tear ducts will probably start filling up early… like, say, the very first scene, a nine-years-earlier prologue that reveals how Woody and Bo Peep were wrenched apart. Parents of young children will also experience watery eyes as they watch Bonnie struggle to adjust to kindergarten -- something that they’ve almost certainly experienced themselves. But the character that’ll really give you all the feels is the film’s ostensible villain, Gabby Gabby (Hendricks). Introduced as a fearsome doll of the Annabelle variety, she’s eventually revealed to be a damaged toy who only wants to experience the joy that comes with being welcomed into a child’s home.
Woody even sacrifices his own voice box so that Gabby Gabby can speak clearly for the first time, and thus capture the imagination of the girl she’s had her eye on. Unfortunately, that girl rejects her, too -- a rejection that you’ll feel in the pit of your stomach. All hope seems lost for Gabby Gabby, until Woody and her other foes-turned-friends spot a lost little girl at the carnival and orchestrate an introduction. United in their shared fear and sadness, the girl and the doll find comfort in each other, and, just like that, Gabby Gabby has a forever home. If you’re already sniffling just reading about this scene, trust us: you’re gonna need an entire box of Kleenex with you in the theater. And this all happens before best buds Woody and Buzz go their separate ways in the film's closing moments (more on that below).
Are there bonus scenes?
No, Nick Fury doesn’t show up talking about a “Pizza Planet Initiative.” But yes, you should plan on staying through the credits for Toy Story 4’s extra scenes. The first shows Woody and his friends helping kids win stuffed critters at the carnival’s deliberately unwinnable shooting game. Then we see Ducky and Bunny regaling Duke with a hyper-exaggerated, hyper-awesome version of their “plush rush” attack: one that involves them turning into giant monsters with laser eyes. Just like Duke, it’s sure to make you go, “Woah.”
The next scene takes us back to Bonnie’s room: it’s one year later and she’s headed into first grade. Just as she did on her kindergarten orientation day, she’s brought home a toy made out of a plastic utensil. Instead of a spork, though, this time she chose a knife…hence the name, Knifey. Just as Forky’s origin story was akin Frankenstein, what happens next is pure Bride of Frankenstein. Forky approaches Knifey overjoyed to see someone like him. But his would-be new friend is overwhelmed. “Why am I alive,” Knifey moans, echoing Forky’s own fears one year earlier. Here’s hoping these two crazy kids can figure it out together.
Last, but not least, Duke rides onscreen one more time to ensure that poor Combat Carl gets that high-five that Woody failed to provide earlier. The Canadian daredevil also dares to mess with the Pixar logo, squishing the “I” with his bike. But because this is Keanu Reeves we’re talking about, we can’t possibly stay angry at him for that.
Will there be a Toy Story 5?
Based on the critical hosannas -- and the virtual certainty of mega box-office numbers -- another Toy Story chapter is a “when, not if” proposition. And the emotional ending of Toy Story 4 leaves the franchise in a place where it can pursue multiple directions going forward. During the film’s climax, Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s old toys once again use teamwork to make the dream work, successfully finding a home for Gabby Gabby and reuniting Bonnie and Forky. But then things go off-script: instead of rejoining his pals, Woody decides to stay with Bo Peep (and her sheep), finally choosing the road-less-travelled that he avoided nine years ago when she was first given away. That officially makes the sheriff a lost toy, which means he belongs to no one…except himself.
It’s an ideal ending for Woody, who spends most of Toy Story 4 struggling to accept the fact that while Bonnie is a delightful child, she’ll never need him as much as Andy did. Once that clicks into place, his choice is clear. But it’s also clear that this doesn’t have to be the end of his journey. After all, he and Bo Peep have plans to see the world—or, at least, more of their state—and there are sure to be other toys (and kids) to help along the way. They’ll be joined in their travels by fellow lost toys, Giggle McDimples, Ducky and Bunny and Duke Caboom, so Woody will have a posse of pals to lead wherever life takes him next.
Meanwhile, back in Bonnie’s room, playtime isn’t in any danger of coming to an end. That means Buzz, Jessie, Slinky Dog and the rest of the gang can still look forward to more years of being inserted into whatever adventures she dreams up. And with Woody gone, it’s up to Sheriff Jessie to help keep the peace among her sometimes unruly friends. Considering her somewhat reduced presence in Toy Story 4, we’d love to see a Jessie-centric chapter. Only one request: please no reprises of “When She Loved Me.” We might actually drown in our tears if we had to see Jessie lose another owner.
Watch the trailer:
Toy Story 4 is now in theaters. Visit Fandango for tickets and showtimes information.
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