FILM REVIEW – TOY STORY 4. With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keanu Reeves. Written by Andrew Stanton & Stephany Folsom. Directed by Josh Cooley. Rated G. 100 minutes.
Nine years ago, I reviewed “Toy Story 3” by noting, “It is a fitting end to what now must be called the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy. The ending is so right it would be criminal to try to squeeze any more out of the series.”
Thus, there was some nervousness about the release of TOY STORY 4. Pixar has created some of the greatest animated movies of all time. Their Achilles heel, so to speak, has been with their sequels. Whatever one thinks of movies ranging from “Cars 2” to “Finding Dory” to “Monsters University,” they all fell short of their originals. The one exception were the “Toy Story” films. In between the laughs and thrills were issues about growing up and growing old. As the characterizations deepened, we saw how Woody’s sense of loyalty and Buzz’s bravery turned into both an asset and a burden.
So, after the brilliant and emotional conclusion to “Toy Story 3,” was there possibly anything left to be said? As it turns out, there was. In “Toy Story 4” Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) and Buzz (voice of Tim Allen) are starting to see changes in their lives. Bonnie, the girl whose toys they now are, is entering kindergarten and very nervous about it.
She makes the transition, with the help of an arts-and-craft doll she made called “Forky” (Tony Hale) for reasons that will be immediately apparent. On a road trip with her parents, Woody discovers Bo Peep (Annie Potts) at a curio shop, after her having become separated from the rest of them. What ensues are the plot points that move things along: meeting action doll Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) who turns out to be Canadian, encountering Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who covets Woody’s voice box and, of course a last-minute rescue.
Beyond the jokes and wonderfully surreal touches, from Forky to Gabby Gabby’s retinue of creepy-looking puppets, this is ultimately Woody’s story. He’s been fiercely loyal to whichever child he belonged to as well as to the other toys. In many ways he’s been the moral center of the “Toy Story” universe. Now he gets to ask if its time to be loyal to himself, with Bo Peep extolling the virtues of living freely. She’s not alone – she has her sheep – but she’s charting her own course while Woody only reacts to what’s going on around him.
If that sounds too deep for the youngsters who are the key demographic here, the movie is rated G, and has plenty of antics and thrills to entertain. However, for the adults, whether with kids or not, there’s food for thought as well. Those who have enjoyed the previous movies will appreciate just how hard it is for Woody to deal with choice he is faced with: continuing life as he’s always known it or taking a chance on the unknown.
“Toy Story 4” demonstrates that Pixar remembers what G rated movies were supposed to be: movies intended to appeal to everyone.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel, Father of the Bride of Frankenstein, has just been released. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.