Sometimes we run to the movies on opening night. And sometimes we don’t. This time, we didn’t. Because while I knew I was going to see Toy Story 4 in theaters, I wasn’t pressed to get there. Toy Story 3 had closed the loop for me. I didn’t need another. So the fourth installment just felt like a post-closure money grab. Pixar makes a damned good movie and these were damned good characters, so I figured I’d enjoy it. But still. I didn’t need it.
Or so I thought.
And here come the spoilers.
If you’d asked me who the main character in Toy Stories 1-3 was, I think I would have said Woody. I think I realized that even before Toy Story 4. But for some reason I didn’t realize that the closure I’d had in Toy Story 3 had nothing to do with him. That closure was about Andy. It had nothing to do with the films’ main hero.
Watching Toy Story 4 is like adding a new final page to The Giving Tree that gives the tree permission to be happy too when it has nothing more to give. Woody’s entire existence was one of self sacrifice. Of living for his kid. Of – in this newest installment – somewhat darkly agreeing to give his own voicebox to another never-loved toy so that she could experience the joy of being loved by a child. And then, in the end, that jaw dropping moment.
“She’ll be fine, Woody.”
“Bonnie will be fine.”
And with that we give our hero permission to be happy for himself for the first time in his life. And to the millions of adults that have grown up with these movies. To the millions of fans that have loved Woody for decades as he unflichingly exists for the sole purpose of making someone else happy – fans that often understand that life all too well – it’s an empowering ending that we all deserve to see play out as much as Woody himself deserves it. When your job is done, when your people are safe and secure and happy, it’s okay to take care of yourself too. Buzz isn’t just telling Woody that. He’s telling us, too.
Listen. I’m not going to write a review that acknowledges only the film’s final minutes. It’s a beautifully executed movie. The graphics are shockingly lifelike. (I challenge you to watch the first Toy Story and then sit down and watch the opening scenes of Toy Story 4 and not have your mind blown by how far the technology has come.) The characters are as funny and endearing and engaging as they’ve ever been. Forky, Ducky, and Bunny had my kids and me rolling. I loved seeing the characters use their coming-to-life powers to manipulate the people around them for what I believe is the first and only time since they scared Sid in the first Toy Story.
The nods to the adults in the audience were fabulous. I was rolling at “Daddy is going to say some words” after Jackie punctured the tire. The antique shop owner’s bath and glass of wine were belly laugh-worthy, as was Buttercup (that’s the unicorn’s name – I had to Google it) trying to get the dad arrested.
And I might just might be happy to watch nothing but Forky saying “Bo Bo Bo” for the duration of an entire feature length film.
But my brain was fighting loving it…was fighting the very fact that this movie had been made…until the final scenes. Because until then it didn’t need to exist. Until then, no matter how good it was, it was just intruding on the closure that I thought I had after Toy Story 3. And then I realized that I hadn’t had closure at all – because the main protagonist of the entire series had an arc that wasn’t closed just because Andy gave him away.
So after enjoying the entire film, the final scenes gave my brain permission to accept that it had been made for good reason. That we needed it. That The Giving Tree has permission to be happy too and that we all deserve to know that in our own lives.
So all in all?
I loved it. I keep seeing people trying to rank it among the other 3 and I’m not going to try to do that. I just thoroughly enjoyed it, to say the very least, and welcome it with open arms as a necessary part of the story.
Oh….and stay though all of the credits. Because you guys are my trash and I care about you. 😉