Toy Story 4 is the rare film that hits all the right notes for a variety of audiences.
Back in 2010, Toy Story 3 delivered an emotional and seemingly perfect ending to the series. As such, many were skeptical at the prospect of Toy Story 4. Fortunately the skepticism was for naught as Toy Story 4 is a heartwarming and hilarious film. It pulls off the seemingly impossible as it becomes a worthy and fitting sequel to the masterpiece that is Toy Story 3. Here are three of the major reasons Toy Story 4 is worth seeing and how it defied the odds of franchise fatigue.
Warning: Spoilers for Toy Story 4
1. Existential crises
While Toy Story films can be enjoyed by everyone, in some ways they’re geared toward the generation that saw the first movies when they were kids. That same generation was in their college years or transitioning to college when Toy Story 3 came out, making the story of Andy heading off to college all the more relatable. And now, much of that generation is questioning their place in the world and having their own existential crises.
Most of the audience can relate to the existential questions of identity and purpose that characters like Woody, Forky, and Gabby Gabby grapple with in the film. Woody was always the toy who looked out for everyone else and was needed by Andy. With Bonnie not needing Woody in the way Andy did, Woody struggles to figure out who he is and what he’s supposed to do with himself.
When a person loses the identity and purpose that grounded them for years, it’s terrifying and frustrating, and thankfully the movie doesn’t oversimplify or dumb down this complex experience. Woody’s struggle is palpable and at times even painful, especially when he tells Bo Peep he’s working so hard to save Forky because it’s all he has left, or when he allows Gabby Gabby to take his voice box.
On the other hand, Forky’s existential crisis rests with the basic question of why he’s alive, but also with how someone who thinks they’re worthless can be loved. Many people experience a significant disconnect between how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them.
Forky’s disconnect is so severe that he can barely function, using any moment he can to try and escape to a trash can. Woody helps Forky reconcile with this disconnect, making him see that Bonnie views Forky as Forky views trash. It’s a valuable lesson that there’s often more common ground before self-perception and the perceptions of others, something that greatly helps Forky cope with his crisis.
Gabby Gabby has her own existential crisis when she finally gets the voice box she’s always wanted, yet is rejected by Harmony. Fixating on one dream and believing it’ll bring you all the happiness in the world, only to have the dream destroyed and rejected is terrifying in its own right. How does one move on when the dream that kept you going is snatched away? Thankfully Woody makes Gabby Gabby realize that her dream was still possible despite Harmony’s rejection, and he helps her achieve her dream in a different way.
This is deep stuff for an animated G-rated film, and makes the movie stick with you long after leaving the theater.
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