TOY STORY 4: Bittersweet Final Chapter Doesn’t Skimp on Laughs

Toy Story 4

Logline: When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

I can’t tell you how many times my partner and I burst out laughing while watching Toy Story 4, but a dozen would be a good guess.

Twenty-four years have passed since Toy Story debuted in 1995, and you’d think the franchise would be a little worn by now, but I was surprised and delighted by this fourth, and probably final, episode.

The story involves a homemade toy’s existential crisis (Forky, voiced by Tony Hale), a reunion with old friend Little Bo Beep (Annie Potts), and two colorful locations that offer new friends and experiences ranging from slightly creepy to hilarious. (Warning: the children sitting next to me were scared by imagery involving old dolls from the 1940s that usually show up in horror movies.)

As the toys venture into the world with Bonnie and her parents, audiences are treated to sights, sounds and scenarios that showcase the toys’ ingenuity and MacGuyver-type skills in saving themselves from new threats and trying to save kids.

I loved the friendship between Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo, and the tenderness Woody shows toward Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), despite the fact that she no longer shows much interest in him.

Women and girls will admire Bo’s independent spirit and the supportive girl squad she’s developed; right-hand woman Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples is irresistible. So is Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom, an angsty Canadian version of Evel Knievel. The antics of cute and fuzzy Bunny and Ducky (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) offer some of the biggest laughs.

One standout is Christina Hendricks, whose velvety voice is perfect for the seemingly innocent Gabby Gabby, a doll from the same era as Woody. And I appreciated the nod to feminism in one brief scene involving Bonnie and cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack); there’s a callback to this at the end.

Animated movies are not my first choice when going to the theater, but Pixar always impresses me with its clever dialogue, humor and sophisticated treatment of serious themes you usually find in award-winning live action films.

In this case, the themes are surprisingly deep: Why would a child’s low-tech, homemade toy have special meaning? What happens when a toy is no longer wanted, or was never wanted in the first place? Can there be a happy ending for lost toys who no longer have children to love them?

Bravo to Pixar for creating yet another film both adults and children can enjoy. Be sure to stay for several mid-credits scenes and one post-credits scene.

Women at the helm: Screenplay and original story by 10 people; three are women: Valerie LaPointe, Rashida Jones, Stephany Folsom. Art Direction by Laura Phillips.

  • Animation, Adventure, Comedy
  • G
  • Running time: 100 minutes

Rating (out of 5): ♥♥♥♥

Katherine Valdez celebrates storytelling on the silver screen and laments the proliferation of movie reviews that give away the plot.

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(Click here for an index of movies reviewed)

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