Though some would say that the Toy Story franchise didn't need another movie after the gloriously touching ending of Toy Story 3, there's no doubt that Toy Story 4 will change their minds. The film takes fans on a wild journey filled with the usual hysterical mishaps (though some are a little creepy, even for this grown-up) and a little bit of heartbreak along the way. And it all starts in a closet . . .
Warning, all the spoilers for Toy Story 4 ahead!
The film picks up soon after the events of Toy Story 3, with Andy's toys mixing in among Bonnie's toys. Despite being Andy's favourite, Woody is quickly downgraded to closet status by the much younger Bonnie, who even takes his sheriff's badge to pin on Jessie. His frustration with being demoted leads him to steal into her backpack when she leaves for school and indirectly inspire the creation of Forky, a spork who vehemently protests his sudden sentience.
Forky's existence comes around just in time for Bonnie's family to set out on a road trip, during which Woody assigns himself as Forky's aggravated guardian. The spork, who believes himself to be trash despite Bonnie favouring him above all her other toys, forces Woody to stage a rescue mission after the googly-eyed utensil jumps out of the family's RV. The stuffed sheriff explains the significance of their purpose as kids' toys to Forky as they work to get back to the RV, but Woody's feelings of diminished self-worth are brought to the surface when he runs into his lost love, Bo Peep.
She's a lot different from the last time Woody saw her, when he very briefly thought about leaving Andy behind to run away with her. Now that he sees how fulfilling Bo's life is as a free toy — especially in comparison to how meaningless he feels as Bonnie's toy — he begins to question his choices.
Woody's emotional conflict fuels much of the movie's events, as he makes the self-appointed mission of keeping Forky safe his sole purpose. Even when his dangerous decisions end up hurting the new friends he makes after reuniting with Bo Peep, he self-destructively pushes on, going so far as to give up his voice box in his desire to fulfil the imperative he's echoed since the first Toy Story: keep his child happy. It's obvious that Woody has conflated making a child happy with his own sense of worth, and Bonnie's rejection of him has caused him to fear losing that.
It's not until the time comes to reunite with the rest of the toys and Bonnie's family that Woody realises that his time living as one kid's toy has come to an end, even if it means saying goodbye to the family he's made over the years. He realises that being there for Andy until he grew up was fulfilling his "purpose" and essentially his go-ahead to retire. So the sheriff delivers Forky to the RV and parts ways with Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang, deciding to travel along with the carnival with Bo Peep and the other free toys. As the credits roll, Woody and Bo Peep work with their new gang to ensure that all the kids visiting the carnival go home with toys that desperately want a kid, and Forky meets a lady love of his own to welcome into Bonnie's vast collection of toys.
It's the perfect ending for a story that started with one simple, intriguing question: "What if toys are secretly alive?" We began with Andy's story and end with Woody's, learning along the way that a kid's love can bring a toy to life but that there's more to life than only caring for one single kid. In the grander scheme of things, it's about living life to the fullest and doing what makes you happy. After all, everyone grows up and moves on — even our toys.