THE RV — I don’t think I am alone in thinking that “Toy Story 3” was the last ride for our mutual friends Woody, Buzz and the whole rest of the gang, but I was wrong.
“Toy Story 4” is now headed to theaters, and I think it has left some people scratching their heads and asking why they made another one after they seemed to wrap the story up so well with the third installment.
Is “Toy Story 4” necessary? No. Is it the best of the series? No. But is it just as fun, heartfelt and enjoyable as its predecessors? Yes. Much of that success is due to some great new characters accompanied by some wonderful voice performances.
Here are some reasons “Toy Story 4” isn’t the best of the series, but still a great movie for the family and better than most animated features out there.
The new characters of Forky, Ducky and Bunny
Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Potato Head are all great characters, but sometimes you need some new blood and the Toy Story franchise knows how to add great new characters. “Toy Story 3” introduced us to Barbie, Lotso and one of my absolute favorites: Ken. Number four has some new characters, and I thought a few of them were absolutely hilarious.
First up is Forky, who is totally absurd and wonderful. Voiced by the talented Tony Hale, it’s hard not to fall in love with this piece of garbage that was made into a toy. Forky’s identity crisis is a highlight of the film and Hale’s performance is spot on.
The other two characters I want to see more of are Ducky and Bunny, voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Micheal Key. These two actors have been comedy partners for some time, and their chemistry and banter is in full force as the stuffed toy joined at the paw and wing. Too much of these characters would have been too much, but the writers struck the right balance — and it makes for some of the most unexpected and hilarious moments of the entire movie.
Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom
I thought about lumping the new character of Duke Caboom into the last point, but this character is so fantastic that he had to have his own, stand-alone spot on the list.
Duke Caboom is known as Canada’s greatest stuntman, and the loud yet incredibly insecure toy is voiced by Keanu Reeves. We are all living through what has been dubbed as the "Keanu-ssance" and it’s only going to get stronger with Duke Caboom. Reeves' distinct and often monotone voice is perfect for this daredevil from the Great White North. As soon as Caboom showed up on screen, I just wanted more and more of him. It should also be noted the flashback of his backstory may have been the best part of the movie.
I don’t want to ruin anything, but just know Duke Caboom steals the show. I’d be willing to jump into a fifth foray into the Toy Story universe if he’s leading the way.
The narrative has grown up
All of the Toy Story movies have done something interesting and managed to have each film’s narrative grow up a little. For example, the first film is like a child dealing with change; like an older sibling dealing with a new brother or sister in the house. The second film is being a teenager and trying to understand where you fit in and how to make new friends. The third film is like going to college: You still have some of your old friends with you, but people start going in different directions and you have to get used to new surroundings and a new way of life.
The incredibly creative group behind these films has continued that journey with the fourth film, and now it’s like we’re done with school, we’ve found a spouse and we’re ready to really grow up, move on and leave those we love for the future we’re not sure about, but willing to jump into it with the person we can’t wait to step into the unknown with.
Maybe the writers and other filmmakers would call me crazy for making these parallels to growing up, but I think it’s a pretty beautiful story arc across four films, and I really enjoyed how they decided to present the next step in this new film.
As always, it’s got heart
Pixar has the uncanny ability of making us laugh, dazzling us with amazing visuals, and squeezing a tear or two out of us. If you were hoping to get out of “Toy Story 4” without shedding any tears then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
There are a few moments in the film that will choke you up, and it’s because those moments are so relatable and familiar even though they’re dealing with toys. It seems absurd, but just like its predecessors, this fourth film is told in a really special and clever way that mimics real life more than we might be ready for.
It’s the perfect movie night
A lot of times family films, especially animated ones, have some jokes for mom and dad, but it’s mostly for the kids. “Toy Story 4” is totally for the kids, but the story is intriguing, the characters interesting, and the humor sincerely funny — which makes it perfect for both kids and adults.
The visuals and fun setups will keep your kids glued to the screen. They’ll also relate to what it means to have a favorite toy or best friend and emotionally connect to the story. What’s great is parents will get sucked in by the visuals and fun setups, while feeling emotionally connected to the friendships, frustrations and fears of being parents. It also allows parents to reminisce about being a child during simpler times.
It really is the perfect movie night for your family.
While “Toy Story 4” isn’t the best of the series, it is a great addition even if it wasn’t wholly necessary. The humor has evolved, the new characters are infectious, and the story is both clever and poignant, which makes it a great reason to get out with the family and take a trip to the theater.