I grew up with the first two Toy Story movies, and by the time Toy Story 3 came out in 2010, I was in my junior year of college and feeling all the emotions Andy was as he transitioned to college himself. And even though I don’t personally have kids yet, a lot of my generation who also grew up with Andy, Buzz, and Woody are parents now, and either intentionally because it knows its audience, or by chance, Disney/Pixar has designed Toy Story 4 to be every parent’s favorite of the franchise for one simple reason: it actually touches on parenting in humorous, relatable ways.
On the one hand, Bonnie’s parents actually play a role in this movie and aren’t just pairs of legs with voices – they appear in several scenes, some that include trying to bribe Bonnie to go to Kindergarten orientation (classic), some that show what it’s like to vacation with a child (spoiler: it’s not easy), and touch on how to handle being angry in front of a child (“Dad’s going to say some words now,” Bonnie’s mom says while she ushers Bonnie away from her husband, who is freaking the F out over a sudden flat tire).
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However, Bonnie’s parents clearly aren’t the stars of the movie in the same way that Woody and the gang are. But the parenting jokes and scenarios don’t stop when Bonnie’s parents are off-screen – Woody takes over for them as a surrogate dad figure to both Bonnie and, hilariously, Bonnie’s new “toy” friend, Forky.
Parents will watch Toy Story 4 through a specific lens, picking up on all of the hilarious parent-related humor and commiserating with Bonnie’s parents (and Woody).
In early scenes with Forky, the plastic utensil come-to-life acts a hell of a lot like a toddler, and Woody deals with corralling him, keeping him quiet, and helping him to understand why he needs to behave better. And when it comes to Bonnie, Woody shows great loyalty to her needs (even when what she “needs” is to sleep clutching a spork), always making sure the toys she relies on are nearby, and that no matter what, she’s cared for as she transitions into Kindergarten.
Just as I watched Andy head off to school with a bit of relatable nostalgia, parents will watch Toy Story 4 through a specific lens, picking up on all of the hilarious parent-related humor and commiserating with Bonnie’s parents (and Woody) as they do everything in their power to provide the best care for Bonnie.
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You should for sure take your kids to see Toy Story 4 when it hits theaters on June 21, but know that you’ll probably be the one to have the best movie-going experience you’ve had at a kids’ film in a long time – it’s about time parents got a win, no?