5 Reasons Parents Will Love 'Toy Story 4'

Forky is a toy that looks, well… different.

His head and body were made from a plastic spork, his arms from a pipe cleaner, and his legs from a broken-in-half popsicle stick.

No wonder he believes he belongs in the trash. That’s where he originated.

“I am not a toy. I am a spork. I was made for trash,” Forky says.

But his owner, a little girl named Bonnie, thinks differently. She created him during her first day in kindergarten, and he brought her comfort and joy.

Without Forky, she may not have survived. Without Forky, she may have cried all day. Without Forky, she may not ever finish kindergarten.

Perhaps that’s why Woody – another one of Bonnie’s toys – cares so much about Forky. It’s because he cares for Bonnie. Woody is determined to keep Forky safe from a cruel world… and from himself.

Then the unthinkable happens. Forky gets separated from Bonnie during a family trip.

Can Woody find Forky and reunite him with Bonnie?

The Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 4 opens this weekend, picking up in the storyline where Toy Story 3 left us – with Woody and his friends under the care of a new owner, Bonnie.

Here are five reasons parents will love this new addition to the franchise:

Photo courtesy: Disney

1. It’s Familiar

The same characters and voices you enjoyed in the first three movies are back: Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Annie Potts as Bo Peep, and John Ratzenberger as Hamm. Even Don Rickles – who passed away two years ago – returns as Mr. Potato Head. (His family gave the filmmakers permission to dig through old clips of his voice to find the right words and sounds.) And singer/composer Randy Newman, whose voice can be heard in the famous tune You’ve Got A Friend In Me, returns to voice a new song. Of course, the same Pixar-quality animation is there, too. If I have any complaint, it’s that I didn’t see enough of the old characters. But I can just watch the first three movies again for that. Besides, the new characters are pretty good. Speaking of that...

Photo courtesy: Disney

2. It’s Fresh

The new toys are great. Forky, in fact, may be the best new animated character of the year. He’s clueless-yet-smart, quirky-but-hilarious. He’s as funny as the old Saturday Night Live character Mr. Bill (who was made of clay), but in a more family-friendly way. Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele voice Ducky and Bunny, two stuffed animals who live at a carnival and who are as crazy as the real-life comedy duo. Then there’s Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), an Evel Knievel-like daredevil who (strangely) struggles with courage. He hails from Canada and will give kids a crash course on that’s country’s traditions. (How many Americans have celebrated Boxing Day?)

Photo courtesy: Disney

3. It’s Hilarious

In the right way, too. In an age where children’s films are littered with flatulence jokes and potty humor – a sign of lazy screenwriting –Toy Story 4is a breath of fresh air. And unlike the first Toy Story, we don’t hear a sexually suggestive joke from Bo Peep. Instead, we’re treated to golden comedy from Bonnie (“I finished kindergarten!” she says after her first day of school), Forky (he wants to sleep in the trash can), and Ducky and Bunny (even if they’re not the greatest role models). Moms and dads likely will see parallels of themselves in Woody, whose care for Forky resembles a parent tending to a toddler. (“Carry me,” Forky tells him).

Photo courtesy: Disney

4. It’s Rated G

Perhaps that’s not surprising, since the first three Toy Story films were, too. But G-rated movies are becoming endangered. The Incredibles series was PG. So were the Despicable Me and LEGO movies. Even the ultra-clean Finding Dory got a PG. Sometimes, a film’s plot warrants a PG rating. But sometimes, movies get slapped with a PG due to unnecessary additions to the film. NPR film critic Bob Mondello says movie studios long ago discovered “it was wise to spice up that uncool G with a little suspense or language to get the PG that was more attractive to hip 11-year-olds.” That’s too bad, because parents want G films. Toy Story 4 contains no language (not even a “heck” or “gosh”), no sexuality (not even a kiss), and only minor violence (some punching and kicking). The most disturbing scenes involve eerie-looking ventriloquist dummies who chase Woody and his friends. It might frighten sensitive children, but it stays in G territory.

Photo courtesy: Disney

5. It Promotes What’s Good

Like loyalty, courage, friendship, accepting people who are different, and helping one another. 

Woody won’t give up until Forky is reunited with Bonnie. A toy’s purpose, Woody tells him, is to bring children joy. (“You are going to help make happy memories that are going to last for the rest of her life.”)

Woody also refuses to allow Forky to be bullied. Yes, Forky looks different, but Bonnie loves him. (“We have to make sure nothing happens to him,” Woody tells the toys). They agree. 

Meanwhile, the movie addresses another major subject: accepting change in one’s life. Bonnie is starting kindergarten and playing with Woody less and less. He’s searching for purpose.

“You find yourself after all those years sitting in a closet...” he says before Forky finishes the sentence: “Feeling useless?”

“Yeah,” Woody says.

Woody feels as if his purpose has been “fulfilled.”

The plot has only one minor caveat for Christian parents: Woody’s desire to follow his “inner voice.” God speaks to us primarily through the Bible but also through prayer and the Holy Spirit. Our goal should be to align any “inner voice” with God’s will. 

Oh yeah. Stay in your seats when the movie ends, because there are four mid-credit scenes. All are worth watching. 

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Family-friendly rating:5 out of 5 stars.

Toy Story 4 is rated G.

Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.

Photo courtesy: Disney

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