Bo Peep Turns Action Hero and A Spork Toy is a New Best Friend
Pixar takes its time to get the message right, and in this case, waiting nine years between “Toy Story 3” is okay by me as the film is a treasure. Currently, kids are inundated with electronic action toys and media; it’s refreshing to see a child create a beloved toy out of everyday household items. In this case, a “spork” that silly name for a spoon and fork combo that Bonnie, Andy’s younger sister, and Woody’s new owner proudly names “Forky.” And thankfully there are other messages for kids, parents and all to embrace—finding your purpose, accepting your destiny and affirming your mortality are also themes of the clever, sweet, and captivating fourth installment in the series.
Director Josh Cooley works from a script by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom as well as John Lasseter (director of the first two installments in the franchise), Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, and Martin Hynes. To be frank, I was not a fan of “Toy Story 3,” yet also realize I was in the minority. I found the setting of a dark, grimy dumpster unappealing and the mixed messages the evil teddy bear presents to kids. Why choose a cuddly, security blanket as a scary evil protagonist? Gratifyingly my confidence in the series is now restored.
The beloved toys all return living happily with Bonnie (voiced by Emily Hahn), Tom Hanks’s pull-string cowboy Woody, Tim Allen’s devoted Buzz Lightyear, Joan Cusack’s feisty cowgirl Jesse and the rest of the gang. New to the gang is Forky (Tony Hale), a confused spork with low self-esteem that the ever-imaginative Bonnie creates as a kindergarten school art project.
Other new toys include Keanu Reeves’ Canadian daredevil motorcycle stunt guy, Duke Caboom who almost steals the movie, plus Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele’s Ducky and Bunny, a bickering pair of carnival prize toys. Christina Hendricks’ Gabby Gabby, is a creepily defective antique ‘Chatty Cathy’ doll plotting a scheme of her own. Woody’s old flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts), now a free-spirited, self-sufficient “lost toy,” nudges Woody to join her new home at the carnival.
Boasting stunning animation, superior editing, an outstanding musical score and sweeping animation cinematography Pixar filmmakers have brought us nothing short of a masterpiece. The plot lines, peppered with humor, emotions, and child-centered themes all connect the dots. Juggling these elements works to perfection, as even a three-year-old will be engaged during the entire movie. Another plus, is the decision to change a protagonist’s status to that of an antihero—which should have been considered with Lots-O’ Huggin’ Bear, the cane-wielding tyrant of Sunnyside Daycare in “Toy Story 3. Here Gabby Gabby softens to express her devious intentions; she pours her heart out to Woody, telling him that all she’s ever wanted in life is to be loved.
Circling back to ‘Forky” the spork art project Bonnie created, again, ingenious writing as she teaches others to problem solve; by creating a friend to comfort her insecurities and shyness as well as her need for a friend. Another stellar writing example is the strong, independent female character Bo Peep; she’s adapted nicely to her neighborhood creating a motorized vehicle covered by a furry skunk’s hide as a clever disguise, geared to clear the way for her fast get-a-ways. Bo Peep is noticeably an action hero, swapping her classic pink-and-white polka-dot dress for a sensible jumpsuit, as she zips around the carnival with her gang to rescue forky in the Antique shop. She’s enjoying the freedom of being a source of comfort and joy to so many children, who needs the heartbreak of being forgotten or rejected by a single owner when you can enjoy the freedom of being a source of comfort and delight to so many children?
Pixar has raised the bar again in “Toy Story 4” in that the multitude of lessons to be learned are worth not only the price of admission but perhaps a fixture in the family movie library. Yes, it’s that good.
Sarah Knight Adamson© July 3, 2018