Review – Bo Peep Packs A Punch (“Toy Story 4”)

After 2010’s Toy Story 3 heart-breaking conclusion (where a grown Andy drives away to college, leaving his beloved toys to little Bonnie), everyone thought that was the end of the franchise. BUT! In a world where sequels are everywhere and money is king, Disney/Pixar just couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Ever wonder why porcelain lamp, Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), disappeared in the past Toy Story movies? Well, this movie explains it all in a brief prologue, but the REAL story is all about little Bonnie (Madeline McGraw) who, on her first day of kindergarten, “makes” a friend named Forky (Tony Hale) out of a spork, pipe cleaners, and other assorted trash. Apparently given life (which raises SO many questions), Forky is now Bonnie’s newest bestest friend, usurping Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and all the other toys.

But newborn Forky (again, many questions) doesn’t understand the fundamentals of being a toy, something Woody has personally taken upon himself to train the spork. Troubles arise while Bonnie and her parents are on vacation at a local carnival, and Woody & Forky find themselves inside an antiques store. Why? Could it be that Bo Peep is inside this shop? Nope! Just a creepy doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her four equally disturbing ventriloquist dummy minions (resembling Slappy from Goosebumps). Looks like Gabby wants Woody’s precious mechanical voice-box to speak again and will stop at nothing to get it, even holding Forky as hostage!

What to do? Why, it’s feral Bo Peep to the rescue! All tricked-out, ready for action, and still having the hots for a certain sheriff, she comes in and saves the day. Meanwhile Buzz, off on his own to find Woody, meets up with co-joined plush buddies, Ducky & Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key & Jordan Peele), who are easily the film’s funniest comedic duo. While Bonnie is going crazy looking for Forky, all hell is breaking loose inside the antiques store as Bo Peep, Woody, Buzz, Ducky & Bunny, and a nutty Canadian motorcycle action figure called Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) are all trying to rescue that dang spork without being seen, killed, or captured!

Newbie screenwriter Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo)–and EIGHT storytellers–have basically reworked plot elements from Toy Story & Toy Story 3 into what is a swan-song for the toy gang. . .again. No doubt about it, after 24 years, these characters have endeared themselves to us all and Pixar has made these CGI animated toys more emotional and real than most humans. The story, all about Woody and his obsessive determination to make sure that a little girl is not disappointed, harkens back to the other films where he was always looking out for everyone else. It does get ridiculous with the constant lapses of plot holes, outrageous leaps in physics and logic, but it’s a fantasy and the kids don’t care, right?

Okay, so maybe I’m nitpicking. A bunch of toys running around in broad daylight and nobody is seeing them? Piffle! The action is fast-paced and full of some of the most incredible photo-realistic CG ever. Yes, it’s missing alot of the constant humor from the other films, although there were some scenes that made me LOL. Gabby Gabby is a good antagonist, but doesn’t hold a candle to Lotso Bear from Toy Story 3, although those dummies? Damn creepy! I’m still trying to figure out Forky’s place in the universe and how a child can ‘create life’ just like that!

This is Josh Cooley’s directorial debut, having been an ensemble voice on other Pixar TV shorts. He shows a genuine flair and depth to his direction, especially during the harrowing rescue scenes, the opening ‘time lapse’, and the hilarious Ducky & Bunny “key stealing” scenes. That shows not only his creativity, but thinking outside the box. Points! This final film (???) was just lacking the emotional 1-2 punch that the other movies had in spades; all the twists and turns were telegraphed early, undercutting the powerful and touching moments we all want and expect. Still, it’s a nice send-off… again… for the gang and I hope to God this is it for the Toy Story franchise.

Toy Story (1995)

The one that started it all. Thanks to a hefty grant to Pixar Studios by Apple founder and guru Steve Jobs, this first ever computer-generated full-length animated feature film was like Disney’s 1937 Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, the very first of its kind. If it failed, it would bankrupt and destroy Pixar forever. Guess what happened?

Welcome to the secret world of toys; in this universe, toys are living things, but pretend to be lifeless when humans are present. A close knit ‘family’ of toys, owned by a little boy named Andy Davis (voiced by John Morris), are caught off-guard one day when Andy’s birthday party is moved up a week. Andy’s toys go to battle stations in fear they might get replaced by any new toys that Andy gets. Head honcho is fearless cowboy pull-string Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks), who mobilizes the others, using the green Army men as reconnaissance.

The others prepare for the worst: china doll shepherdess Bo Peep (Annie Potts), sarcastic Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), nervous Rex the dinosaur (Shawn Wallace), clever Hamm the piggy bank (John Ratzenberger), and southern-charming Slinky Dog (Jim Varney). To all their shock and surprise, they are greeted by Andy’s new toy, a gleaming new Buzz Lightyear space-ranger action figure (Tim Allen), who thinks he’s a real space ranger, and not a toy! Woody first thinks this guy is nuts, but is soon green with envy as Buzz not only impresses the other toys with his various features, but wins over Andy as his best playmate!

As Andy prepares for a family outing at Pizza Planet with Buzz, Woody attempts to trap him behind a desk, but ends up accidentally knocking him out of a window. The other toys think Woody’s killed him, so it’s up to the banished Sheriff to go after Buzz to clear things up. Meanwhile, a vengeful Buzz hitches a ride on the family van and picks a fight with Woody during a gas stop. But that only leads to the two being left behind and making their way to Pizza Planet themselves where, in a stroke of horrible luck, they are captured by the mentally deranged next door neighbor kid, Sid (Erik VonDetten), who delights in torturing toys!

Woody and Buzz now have to not only reconcile their past, but escape certain doom, make it back home, AND get to the moving truck to join the others or else! Oh yeah… no pressure! Now, with a first-time effort, you’d think writers Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow would play it safe and write a simple, calm, normal kiddies movie with no adults themes or deep philosophical meanings. WRONG! These guys went for broke and dolled out a complex, thought-provoking, hilarious, made-for-kids-but-adults-will-love-it screenplay rich with symbolism and strong in dialoge.

John Lassester, head of Pixar, directed this and showed he was man of vision and creativity (until those sexual harassment charges). Okay, so the CGI by 2019 standards is antiquated, but back in 1995 it was cutting-edge and no one could imagine an entertaining full-length feature film that would go on to win Academy Awards, Golden Globes, make a staggering $350 million at the box office (that’s 1995 money, too!), and endear itself to millions. Not to mention making Pixar Studios a major player in the animation field, second only to Disney… which naturally they HAD to acquire in 2006.