Thursday, June 20, 2019

Toy Story 4

At some point Disney and Pixar may go too far with the Toy Story franchise and jump the proverbial shark which always seems to be lurking just around the corner of the next sequel. Thankfully, that day is not today. Despite the fitting conclusion Toy Story 3 offered to the franchise in having the toys find new life with a new owner, Toy Story 4 comes up with a new story that (while not as emotional as either the second or third entries into the franchise) provides an abundance of quirky and zany humor reminiscent of the original Toy Story.

Without breaking too much with tradition, the set-up is simple as a toy is lost and other toys set out to bring it home. This time the toy in question is a makeshift toy Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) creates on the first day of Kindergarten called Forky (Tony Hale) who, despite the child's love, still yearns for the trashcan from whence the spork came from. Woody (Tom Hanks), who is struggling with his position of no longer being a favorite toy, claims responsibility for the spork. This means going after Forky who escapes on a road trip leading Woody to encounter new toys and one old friend.

Toy Story 4 is very much a Woody-centric movie with characters like Buzz (Tim Allen) and the returning Bo Peep (Annie Potts) getting larger supporting roles than most of the other characters. Forky is obviously the movie's breakout star who won over the kids in my screening the first time he uttered the word "trash." Other new characters include Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) as a villain a bit reminiscent of Lotso, although the movie does take an interesting turn with the talking doll, Keanu Reeves as Canadian toy Duke Caboom who has never lived up to his potential, Ally Maki as the pint-sized Giggle McDimples, and Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a pair of Carnival toys added to the film purely for comic relief. Andy's old toys, and some of Bonnie's introduced in the last film, are all still here though most, including Jessie (Joan Cusack), have far smaller roles this time around.

I'm still amazed that Disney went back to the well and returned with a sequel this good. It's not the best of the series, and in some ways makes a contradictory statement about a toy's role than we've seen in the past, but the result is an entertaining film with multiple running gags, some clever jokes, more than a few cheap laughs, and a couple of sweet moments which Toy Story 4 holds in reserve until the movie's final 10 minutes. You may not need a handkerchief this time around, but there are plenty of laughs.

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