This post contains spoilers about the ending of “Toy Story 4.”
I went into a screening of “Toy Story 4” last week armed with everything necessary for a successful Pixar viewing experience: Kleenex, and the acceptance that I was probably going to weep openly in front of hundreds of strangers.
Except as I watched the movie, which earned $118 million at the box office over the weekend, something strange happened: I didn’t cry.
This was, frankly, astonishing. There’s a reason that stories exist with headlines such as, “The Most Emotionally Devastating Moments in Pixar History” and “Why’d Pixar Have To Do Us Like That?” Like most adults, I was inconsolable during the beginning of “Up.” I sobbed through the end of “Finding Nemo.” And don’t you dare even mention the words “Bing Bong.”
And the “Toy Story” franchise is another story — the end of “Toy Story 3” was practically traumatizing, and I expected that this latest sequel would only raise the stakes.
“Toy Story 4,” for what it’s worth, was delightful. But only one scene made me slightly misty-eyed: At the end, a mischievous but misunderstood doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) is on her way with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang to reunite with their owner, Bonnie. After years of being left on a dusty shelf at an antique store, all Gabby Gabby wants is a kid of her own.
As the toys attempt to make their way across a carnival back to Bonnie’s parents’ car, the toys spot a sobbing young girl who got separated from her mom and dad. Gabby Gabby knows it’s her time to shine: She captures the attention of the little girl, who is intrigued and immediately comforted by the presence of a doll. She then gathers the courage to call out to a police officer, who helps reunite her with her panicked parents.
While that scene definitely hit an emotional nerve (I have a very vivid memory of briefly getting lost in a shopping mall as a child), it was just the prelude to the real end of the movie: Woody decides that after years of being the ringleader of the toys, it’s time for him to leave. Just like Andy moved on, he accepts that Bonnie is growing up, too — and she’ll be okay without him. So he bids a farewell to his longtime pals. I braced myself.
Honestly, the slow pan across all Woody’s friends (Buzz! Rex! Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head!) as he says goodbye almost got me. But then it was over. Woody was off on a new adventure, plus he was reunited with his true love, Bo Peep. My tear ducts remained dry. I actually ended up laughing at the end, thanks to a hilarious credits scene featuring two plush toys voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.
As I heard about others who cried or read other takes (“'Toy Story 4′ will make you ugly cry, so bring tissues”), I started to feel self-conscious about my lack of tears. What was wrong with me? I can’t believe I would disappoint Tom Hanks like this.
After some thought, though, I came up with two theories: First, this movie has some dark themes. One main plot point is the creation of “Forky,” Bonnie’s new spork toy that she builds from items in the garbage. Forky spends the first part of the movie declaring that he is trash and frantically trying to hurl himself into the garbage can, which brings up some real existential angst. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting — not to mention Gabby Gabby’s demonic ventriloquist dummies who steal Woody’s voice box.
Maybe I was too haunted by those scenes. But the likelier option is that, like many people, I’m simply exhausted by the current culture that demands reunions, reboots and sequels for all of our favorite movies and TV shows. It’s no secret that the “Toy Story” franchise didn’t need to continue; the third movie had a perfect (and devastating) ending. So it’s possible that I had used up all my emotional energy, and even my subconscious was cynical about the need for a fourth film.
If you also found yourself as the only dry eye in the house at the end of the movie, I declare: You don’t have to worry. And if you still need a good Pixar cry, just wait a couple of years — the company just announced a film called “Soul” for 2020, which has the tagline, “Ever wonder where your passion, your dreams and your interests come from? What is it that makes you . . . YOU?” I started to tear up just reading that, so that viewing experience should be quite a treat.