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Reel Review: ‘Toy Story 4’

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Woody and the gang are back in "Toy Story 4" where they have to protect Bonnie's new toy, Forky, from others and himself. PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

By Anna Husted EBS FILM CRITIC

“Toy Story 4” is the darkest and most existential in the “Toy Story” film franchise to date. Albert Camus, one of the greatest writers of existential concepts, once said, “… the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Woody takes this challenge on directly in “Toy Story 4.”

Bonnie, the latest in a line of Woody’s owners, has stopped playing with Woody, but Woody doesn’t know anything in life except to care for your kid. When Bonnie makes her latest toy, Forky, voiced by a hilarious-as-always Tony Hale, out of a spork with pipe cleaner for arms while at her Kindergarten orientation, Woody takes it upon himself to make sure Forky joins the gang of toys to make Bonnie happy. The problem: Forky believes he is a single use plastic meant for “soup, salad, maybe chili and then trash.”

The montage of Forky repeatedly throwing himself into the trash is as hilarious as it is grim—rarely in an animated movie made for children do you get this sort of existential questioning—what is Forky’s purpose in life now that Bonnie changed it? Forky’s disposition eventually affects Woody’s as well because he is increasingly ignored by Bonnie.

As I write this review, I appreciate “Toy Story 4” more and more. Upon my initial viewing, the movie seemed simple, but in reality it is as complex as the previous three films. These toys still have something to teach us about our own human condition, and, ironically, the meaning of what it is to be alive. 

Without spoiling too much of the film, “Toy Story 4” takes us into dark corners of creepy antique shops, but with new characters that are always there to lighten the mood. This includes Ducky and Bunny, two carnival stuffed animals who are stuck together played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele respectively.

I’ve loved the world and characters of the “Toy Story” franchise since the first installment came out in 1995, and I will love long after the final film hits the big screen. They bring such a rich balance of comedic and philosophical depth to storytelling and a comradery of characters unlike any other film series. “Toy Story 4” stands tall with its predecessors and adds to that depth of character – giving us all “the feels” once again.  

“Toy Story 4” is now playing in theaters.

Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found hiking a mountain or at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s reading, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.

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