Toy Story 4    
Directed by
Josh Cooley. Script by Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom, Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack. Length 100 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 98%

After his beloved Andy went off to college, Woody and his friends had a second childhood in the care of little Bonnie. But she’s growing up, too. Woody, even though he ends up more and more often in the closet, still feels responsible for Bonnie and climbs into her backpack on her first day at kindergarten. This is also the day that a new toy, Forky, arrives on the scene, launching a geat new adventure for Woody and the other toys.

What makes a toy a toy? The unique love that your child feels for it? Or the toy's vocation, his mission, to make him happy and help him navigate childhood? And what happens to a toy when a child grows up and his mission inevitably draws to an end?

The new adventure of Woody and his toy friends leads us once again to explore these questions — the answer is different for each of them.

The Toy Story saga, starting from a modest but ingenious assumption — the lives of toys when their owners’ backs are turned — has led a generation of viewers through a long journey that is also a reflection on love and loyalty, on one’s mission in life, on growing and growing old. Toy Story 3 appeared to have closed the series, with Andy leaving for college and passing the baton to a new girl.

Toy Story 4 succeeds in the difficult task of taking up the threads by adding new and interesting ideas and restoring some old friends, especially Bo Peep. She is the porcelain shepherdess for whom Woody had a weakness but who disappeared long ago, in Toy Story 2.

Unlike Woody, who clings to his responsibility towards his child, Bo Peep accepted the inevitable — that a child's need for his toys does not last for ever. But surprisingly, despite being a “lost toy “, she had a life of adventure, escaping from an antique shop and plotting to discover the world by joining a traveling funfair.

Woody, with his stubborn loyalty to “his” child, and Bo Peep, with her thirst for adventure, make an odd couple, but they team up to save Forky (half a fork and half a spoon). He was turned from a utensil into a toy by Bonnie, but he can’t accept that he is a toy and keeps on trying to return to the trash can where she found him. Only by sharing his own life experience and admitting he may be a bit rubbish too, does Woody persuade him that he has a unique mission in life to accomplish.

Less prominent than in the past episodes, Buzz Lightyear offers, together with a couple of hilarious new entries, some comic relief.

The great character in this instalment is Gabby Gabby, the doll who was never loved because she was defective. She dreams of becoming a child's favourite and is willing to do anything to achieve this, even stealing her vocal player from Woody.

It is through Gabby, in many ways more complex than the villain Lotso in Toy Story 3, that Toy Story 4 manages to say something extraordinarily important and relevant: “having” a child first of all means the generosity of loving and only secondly the joy of being loved. It is the beginning of a frightening but beautiful adventure in which we accept the risk of betrayal but is well worth the pain.

More than the other instalments Toy Story 4 speaks to adults even more than to children. It explores the contradictions of parenthood and the travails of the most beautiful job in the world, of the sacrifices that it demands and the joys that it gives.

Laura Cotta Ramosino works for Cattleya, an Italian production company, as a creative producer and story editor for several television shows. She is also a regular contributor to the website Sentieri del cinema and Scegliere un film, an annual collection of film reviews.     

Michael Cook

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet