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Toy Story 4

Woody & crew confident and at ease before encountering the ventriloquist dummies

Synopsis: Woody & Buzz welcome a new toy: Forky. Keeping Forky close to their kid, Bonnie, makes for comic adventures.

Remember Toy Story 3 when we all had to grow up and say goodbye to Buzz, Woody and friends? It was rough because the toys almost got incinerated and we had to accept that Andy’s childhood was gone. But his toys were left in good hands with little Bonnie. What a great way to close the toy story. In fact, an argument could be made that there was an implicit contract with the Disney powers that be and the audience that this was the end. But when a franchise brings in gobs of money, it’s back to what works.

Woody, Buzz et al. are brought out of retirement for Toy Story 4. Some progress has been made in the form of female (doll) empowerment. No more Bo Peep watching from the sidelines. And Jessie hits her stride with a promotion.  Not surprisingly Pixar’s computer animation is stunning, from the carnival scenes to the characters’ expressions. Bonnie is especially adorable. But beware…

Disney would have you believe that the latest outing for Toy Story is a comic kids’ movie.  Cute ads will have children lobbying their parents’ for a trip to the movies. I naively expected some light entertainment.

NO! Toy Story 4 is a full-blooded horror movie. Lost children, homelessness, kidnapping for organ trafficking and butchered plushies are all on full display. Worst of all– I can barely write the words — are a gang of ventriloquist dummies. And there is no ventriloquist. Maybe they killed him (or her). The dummies lurch around like the undead re-animated by Satan. I screamed every time they came onscreen. Not a sound was uttered by the petrified children in the theater. All any of us could do was watch in dumbstruck horror as the dummies are marshalled around by a creepy 1950s doll named Gabby Gabby. They are her sentries and henchmen. I thought I would faint– it’s a nightmare.

And Disney dares to call this a children’s movie?! Each and every animator at Pixar should be asked to explain themselves. And to the screenwriters: are you trying to destroy childhood?! I need to calm myself for a moment with a drink and a cool washcloth upon my fevered brow.

After encountering ventriloquist dummies

Okay, here’s a little background to prepare yourself… The Toy Story 4 plot is (ostensibly) that big changes are afoot for little Bonnie and her toys as she begins kindergarten. She’s afraid to start school, so Woody decides to jump in her school backpack and make sure that her first day is alright. Bonnie’s parents reassure her that things will be great. They’re not. She sits alone at a classroom table and some kid swipes her art supplies. Driven by a deep desire for companionship, Bonnie makes a friend out of a garbaged spork and names him Forky. Forky wanders a lot and Woody takes it upon himself to toysit Forky. And Bonnie…well, even for a kindergartener she’s immature. She spends the movie misplacing everything but her own head. Her saintly parents continually have to cross God’s green earth looking for her backpack, Forky, etc…

Now back to the horror… the movie never lets up: a toy car nearly drowns, a toy stunt cyclist is left for dead by a heartless juvenile, toys commandeer a vehicle, every second brushing a family close to death.

My head was pounding by the time Bonnie and her parents take an RV trip, heading off to see a traveling carnival. When I was a child, Scooby Doo cartoons educated me as to the dangers of carnivals, what with spooky goons creeping about and stoned Shaggy cutting into eats’ lines with a serious case of the munchies.

Once the family gets to the carnival town, Bonnie & her mom browse at a spine-chilling antique store, strewn with the detritus of the long departed. Geez, mom! Bring the kid to an ice cream shop or some other normal destination. Be warned, moviegoer…this store

A good place to hide from ventriloquist dummies

is where the dummies are stationed. If you have to leave the theater for a bit to be sick from fear, feel free. You will only miss another round of Woody trying to find Forky before Bonnie pitches another fit that forces her parents to rearrange their entire lives.

There are, in fact, some moments that are terror-free. The old toys like Rex and Slinky Dog add some levity with their antics as do new toys like pocket police officer Giggle McDimples and Keanu Reeves voicing a Canadian dim bulb nice guy (enough with Canadian stereotypes, tee hee) motorcyclist, Duke Caboom. And happily, comedy duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key reunite as carnival plushies Bunny and Ducky. They dream of elder abuse. (Mr. Peele, I’m sorry I didn’t see Us. I was too scared. Little did I know that this movie is probably even scarier than your Us movie.)

Someday this G rated movie may be suitable for kids when the dummies are edited out. Until then, it’s a horror movie.

Movie Loon Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade: B

Cut to the Chase: Humorous offering from Pixar, but it’s time to let the toys retire.

Humor Highlight: Forky! He’s learning what it means to be in the world as a toy. He’s odd and cute.

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