Toy Story 4 Parent Guide
This is an enchanting movie, filled with humor, pathos, charm, and gentle wisdom. A great choice for viewers of all ages.
Parent Movie Review
Sometimes it’s great to be wrong. When I saw the trailer for Toy Story 4, I was afraid that Pixar was making an unnecessary sequel in pursuit of the almighty dollar. But as the movie played out across the screen, I fell under its spell. Toy Story 4 is an enchanting movie, filled with humor, pathos, charm, and gentle wisdom.
Beginning where the third film left off, Andy’s toys have all adjusted to life with Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw) – except for Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks). No longer the favorite toy, Woody is often left in the closet to gather dust. But when an apprehensive Bonnie has to go to kindergarten orientation, Woody sees a role for himself and hides in her backpack. He’s instrumental in helping Bonnie on her first day at school and she comes home proudly carrying Forky, a spork she has turned into a toy.
The introduction of Forky, hilariously voiced by Tony Hale, is where this movie takes off. The best family films operate on two levels – a simple story for kids and subtler jokes or deeper themes aimed at older viewers. Ostensibly, Forky’s story is about a confused craft project who doesn’t realize he’s a toy: he’s convinced he’s trash because he was made from trash. His unremitting efforts to dive into every garbage can he sees are a source of great hilarity for young viewers. However, underneath Forky’s comic misadventures lies an existential angst that will keep older viewers engaged. What makes someone or something alive? Where does our perceived value originate? How do we determine the purpose of our lives? Big questions for a kid’s movie…
And the filmmakers tackle other weighty topics as well. Characters struggle to adapt to change and even to embrace it. They feel lonely, inadequate, lost, useless, or even defective and learn to alter the way they see themselves, their goals, and each other. They co-operate, share, and sacrifice for one another. Even the story’s villain is given a depth and, dare I say, a humanity not usually seen in lighthearted family fare.
The messages in this film sound heavy enough to weigh it down, but they don’t. Toy Story 4 rides high on a tide of laughter, buoyed up by comic action sequences, plenty of funny dialogue, and the usual collection of oddball characters. Buzz Lightyear, still voiced by the inimitable Tim Allen, decides that the buttons on his chest that provide pre-recorded phrases are the source of his “inner voice” and decides to follow whatever directions they provide – with predictably hilarious results. And the story introduces a new character, Canadian stunt rider Duke Kaboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves. “Yes I CANada!” is the Duke’s motto as he performs death-defying feats on his motorcycle. (Canadian audiences will be particularly amused by the Duke’s moves – one of which bears an uncanny resemblance to a famous yoga pose performed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.)
Best of all, the strong positive messages and wonderful comic scenes come with little negative content, aside from some moments of peril and minor violent content which are necessary to drive the plot. Only the most sensitive youngsters are likely to find anything upsetting in this outstanding film. All other moviegoers will marvel at how a motley collection of animated toys manage to climb out of their toybox and into their hearts.Directed by John Lasseter, Josh Cooley. Starring Tom Hanks, Patricia Arquette, Kristen Schaal. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release June 21, 2019. Updated July 8, 2019
Watch the trailer for Toy Story 4
Toy Story 4
Rating & Content Info
Why is Toy Story 4 rated G? Toy Story 4 is rated G by the MPAA
Violence: A character is convinced he’s trash and keeps trying to throw himself into garbage cans whenever possible. He finally throws himself out of a moving vehicle and another character jumps after him to rescue him. A person repeatedly steps on a toy’s head. Creepy ventriloquist dummies chase main characters and abduct one, trying to dismember one of them. A stuffed toy repeatedly kicks another toy in the head until his foot gets caught in the toy’s visor. A toy uses a nail to puncture a vehicle’s tires. A toy is shown ripped in half with stuffing puffing out. In an imagined episode, two stuffed toys repeatedly attack an elderly woman. They also imagine appearing in her bedroom and frightening her when she wakes up. Toy sheep bite another toy’s posterior. A cat swallows a toy; later it vomits it out. Toys press down on a vehicle’s gas pedal, leading to some dangerous driving. A cut scene shows a stuffed toy, grown to giant size, shooting lasers from his eyes and frightening people.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: No profanity noted. A character is called an “idiot”. Characters describe themselves as “defective” or “trash”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated July 8, 2019
Toy Story 4 Parents' Guide
Forky is convinced he’s trash. What changes his mind? How do we see ourselves? Can we be sure that assessment is accurate? What can we do when we are trapped with a negative view of ourselves?
Woody really struggles when he doesn’t feel needed in Bonnie’s life. Why is it so important to feel like someone needs us? What other sources of meaning and satisfaction can we find in our lives?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If your child enjoys stories about the secret lives of toys, head straight for Jane Hissey’s Old Bear stories. Illustrated with beautiful colored pencil drawings, these stories follow the adventures of Old Bear, Little Bear, Bramwell Brown, Rabbit, Camel, Hoot the owl, Jolly Tall the giraffe, Ruff the dog, and others who are sure to entertain young readers.
Stories about living toys are classic. A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books introduce children to Christopher Robin and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. And Margery Williams Bianco’s The Velveteen Rabbit tells the tale of a stuffed toy who becomes real when he is loved by a boy.
Early readers can be encouraged to take better care of their toys when they read The Doll Hospital, a picture book by Kallie George and Sara Gillingham. Elementary school readers will also enjoy Joan Holub’s book with a similar title, Doll Hospital #01: Tatiana Comes to America. In this chapter book, two girls spend time with their grandmother, who is able to “read” the experiences of the dolls she fixes at her toy repair business.
Bill Watterson struck comic gold in his Calvin and Hobbes comics. Brilliantly conceived and whimsically drawn, these stories of a boy and his stuffed tiger, who might or might not be alive, appeal to kids and adults alike.
Parents looking for a heartstring-tugging book about growing children, beloved toys, and Christmastime, can read Mary Pope Osborne’s picture book, Rocking Horse Christmas.
Related home video titles:
Toy Story introduces us to Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang in Andy’s bedroom. In Toy Story 2, Buzz and the rest of the toys come to Woody’s rescue when he is seized by a toy collector. And in Toy Story 3, the toys have to adapt when Andy grows too big to play with toys anymore.
More toys come to life in The Lego Movie. The ubiquitous building toys are forced to choose between following the instruction manual or not…
Toys come back to save their boy – now all grown up – in Christopher Robin.
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is another film that will appeal both to children and to adults who would love to watch a story set in a magical toy store.