Film review: Toy Story 4

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, June 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham has a review of the latest Toy Story, a great, great franchise we thought had come to a good end after three. But, to her delight, it’s back with Toy Story 4.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the Toy Story gang first charged onto screens. They forever changed the face of animated movies. It was the first entirely computer-generated feature-length film. It was also the first film by Pixar. And the studio went on to build an unparalleled reputation for filmmaking excellence.

When Toy Story 3 came out 9 years ago, it was reportedly the end of the line for the franchise. And most viewers felt it couldn’t have done a better job riding off into the sunset. Andy was growing up and going off to college. And he was finally ready to pass his favorite pal off to a new youngster. So when Disney suddenly announced Toy Story 4, many critics wondered—do we really need another one?

If they continue to offer the innocent hilarity this one does … yes please! Keep them coming.

DUCKY: Hey. Up here, Astro boy. If you think you can just show up and take our top prize spot, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.

BUZZ: You don’t understand. I need —

DUCKY: A child to shower you with unconditional love? Join the club, pal.

BUNNY: Yeah, join the club.

BUZZ: C’mon, help me get out of here.

DUCKY: Oh, I’ll help you. With my foot! Uh, Bunny, what are you doing? I can’t reach him. Help me out here, c’mon.

BUNNY: Oh, sorry Ducky, I’m not a mind reader.

DUCKY: You gonna make me say it? With these tiny legs, I cannot reach without your help. This is what I’ve been talking about, Bunny. You need to work on paying attention and your listening skills. HA! How do you like that? To infinity and my foot!

It’s astounding how few G-rated major releases are made any more. In the last decade, at least half of them have come from Pixar. Even most children’s films earn a PG. And with their potty-humor, sly double-entendres and cheap substitution of pop-culture references for real jokes, they deserve it. (I’m looking at you, DreamWorks.)

There’s never been any of that in Toy Story and there still isn’t. What there is is the kind of creativity and humor we’ve come to expect from the franchise. We catch up with Woody in his new life in little Bonnie’s playroom where he’s no longer the head honcho. In the capricious way of children, Bonnie is fairly indifferent to Woody’s cowboy charms. Instead, her favorite plaything is a spork that, with bit of pipe-cleaner and paste magic, she turns into a toy she names “Forky.”

TRIXIE: Gasp! He did go to kindergarten!

POTATO HEAD: I knew it!

BUTTERCUP: You tryin’ to get Bonnie in trouble?

WOODY: No, no, no. Guys, listen. Bonnie had a great day in class. Bonnie made a friend in class.

DOLLY: Aw, she’s already making friends.

WOODY: No, no. She literally made a new friend. C’mon out. It’s okay. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Forky!

SLINKY: Golly bob howdy!

REX: Look how long his arms are!

Humble Woody is happy enough to play second fiddle to a spork. The problem is, the spork doesn’t realize he’s now a toy. Thanks to the miracle of writing her name on his popsicle stick foot, Bonnie brings Forky into the fullness of new life. Only, he keeps trying to jump back into the garbage can with the rest of the used plastic utensils.

GABBY: We were just out for my early morning stroll and look! We met you! My name is Gabby Gabby. And this is my very good friend Vincen.

WOODY: Oh, Woody. Pleasure to meet you.

GABBY: Well, it’s nice to meet you, Woody. And you are?

WOODY: This is Forky!

FORKY: I’m trash.

WOODY: Uh, our kid made him.

Forky’s confusion over his real identity is side-splittlingly funny. My husband and I agreed we laughed harder at it than at any recent adult-targeted comedies. But it also offers the opportunity to speak some serious theology into little people’s lives. We may, like Forky, believe we are trash. We may even want to live in the trash. But it’s the love of the One who made us that tells us what we really are. And our Creator isn’t content to throw us away. If His name’s written on the bottom of our foot, He’s going to come and fish us out of the garbage no matter how hard we try to stay there.

Am I reaching? Making too much of an ingenious plot device? Maybe. But consider—one of the film’s two screenwriters—Andrew Stanton—is a professing Christian. Stanton has been a co-writer on all of the Toy Story films. And it was he who wrote the first outlines of this story, including the character of Forky.

Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast insist this is the last Toy Story movie. If so, it was a wonderful way to say happy trails to Hanks’ Woody, in particular. And if it’s not, as long as the sequels keep bringing the warm-hearted, innocent fun this one does, my family will keep watching them to infinity and beyond.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Disney/Pixar via AP) This undated image provided by Disney/Pixar shows a scene from the movie “Toy Story 4.” 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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