Sporks and Hope

Toy Story 4 – Why a fourth one after the third provided a satisfying ending for Andy’s toys? Well, money. But storywise, the last one had left the whereabouts of Bo Peep, a shepherdess figure from a lamp in Andy’s sister Molly’s room and Woody’s love interest, unresolved. The film starts with a flashback showing Bo Peep being donated nine years before the main plot starts, then it switches to Andy’s former toys still living with Bonnie from the last movie, but her never playing with Woody anymore. And his leadership role has also been largely taken over by Dolly, so he doesn’t feel needed. There’s a further wrinkle in the notion of toy sentience in that a figure Bonnie makes out of a spork, a pipe cleaner, and a popsicle stick comes to life and interacts with the other toys. He’s voiced by Tony Hale, and bears some similarity to his awkward man-child character Buster Bluth from Arrested Development. There’s a bit of dark humor involved with him, as he’s basically suicidal, thinking he belongs in the trash and constantly trying to throw himself away.

On a road trip with Bonnie, Woody and the spork, whose name is Forky, are separated from the others. When they come across an antique store with Bo Peep’s old lamp in the window, they go inside to investigate, and comes across a doll from the late fifties called Gabby Gabby, who was never sold because her voice box was broken. She holds out hope that, if she could get it repaired, the store owner’s granddaughter would want to adopt her. She’s become rather maniacal in her pursuit of a new voice box, and the creepiness factor is increased by the fact that she’s attended by non-talking ventriloquist dummies.

Woody manages to escape, but Forky is left behind, at least until Woody runs into Bo Peep again.

She’s now a self-reliant character living sort of a road warrior life, riding around in a toy skunk with a tiny toy named Giggle McDimples and scavenging parts. The change in her personality is reflected in how she no longer wears her old-fashioned dress and hat. Exactly how a porcelain doll could change her clothes is never explained, but it’s an effective redesign. While they Woody, Bo, and Giggle plan a rescue, Buzz Lightyear goes to look for Woody and meets a stuffed bunny and duck who are carnival prizes, voiced by Key and Peele.

The timing of this film makes the combination of Jordan Peele and a midway rather unsettling, but there aren’t any doppelgangers involved. The characters team up with Duke Caboom, basically a Canadian version of Evel Knievel voiced by Keanu Reeves, who was abandoned by a kid when he found out the toy couldn’t really do all the stunts he could in the commercial.

Eventually, Woody strikes a deal with Gabby to trade his voice box for Forky, and she becomes a more sympathetic character, especially when the storekeeper’s granddaughter rejects her. Woody finds purpose again when he helps Gabby find a kid, and decides to stay with Bo to help other toys find homes, accompanied by Giggle, Ducky, Bunny, and Caboom. As you can see, there were quite a few new characters introduced here. In addition to the plot-significant ones, there’s a brief appearance near the beginning of some old toys in Bonnie’s closet, who are voiced by Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Carol Burnett, and Betty White.

It does seem to diminish the roles of the toys from the previous movies, however. I guess that’s understandable in the case of Mr. Potato Head, as his voice was cobbled together from previous recordings by the late Don Rickles. The tone is much lighter than in the third film. There are a few morbid bits, including some with a cat who likes to destroy toys, but they’re mostly played for comedy. We’re reassured that one toy who’s ripped in half is still alive and not that upset about it, and when Giggle is swallowed by the cat, she’s hacked up again shortly afterwards. Besides, it’s not like you can blame the cat for following its hunting instincts.

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2 Responses to Sporks and Hope

  1. Okies…Well, I was planning to find a way to see this one anyway. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve seen any listings at all for any G-Rated movies in cinemas. I suppose it does sound a bit darker than the earlier ones, though. I remember liking the first one. I think that was the one with the boy who made grotesque mix-em-up toys out of pieces of other toys that he broke. That was pretty creepy, but I was okay with it. So many movies that have had Disney’s name attached in recent years simply are not worthy of the name. I think I’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt and see it if I can.

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