The exciting, amusing, and emotionally resonant ‘Toy Story 4’ should be the franchise’s finale.
Kernel Rating: 4.5 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 115 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 6+. This potentially final movie in Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ franchise is mostly an action comedy, with the same themes about loyalty, friendship, and teamwork as in the preceding films but additional action elements. Characters jump out of windows and across wide gaps, including a character who is a stunt motorcycle driver; the villains want to remove Woody’s voicebox and take other characters hostage; in an imaginary sequence, two toys imagine growing monstrously big and having superpowers, including laser-shooting eyes, that they use to destroy a carnival; and other various injuries, including a toy whose arm is broken off and a character who is swallowed and later regurgitated by a cat. Some romantic tension between a few characters, including hugs; a young girl experiences some trouble fitting in at kindergarten, and is initially ignored by other students; an older woman relaxes with a glass of wine.
By Roxana Hadadi
Nearly a decade after “Toy Story 3,” “Toy Story 4” picks up the story of cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), space ranger Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), and the other toys that once belonged to Andy. With the same depth and layered storytelling as the preceding films in this franchise, “Toy Story 4” is a beautifully animated and emotionally engaging spin on the recognizable Pixar formula.
“Toy Story 4” begins with the toys still living with Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw), who received Andy’s toys after he left for college. But while Woody was Andy’s favorite toy, he is not a priority for Bonnie, who prefers to play with cowgirl Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack) or the mayor of her imaginary town, Dolly (voiced by Bonnie Hunt). Worried about his relationship with Bonnie, Woody dedicates himself to preserving her happiness, including taking care of a new toy that Bonnie makes at kindergarten: a spork with googly eyes, pipe-cleaner arms, and popsicle-stick legs named Forky (voiced by Tony Hale).
Forky isn’t sure what he is, convinced that he’s trash and unsure of how he came to life. Under Woody’s guidance, he begins to realize that he belongs to Bonnie—but his burgeoning bond to her is put on hold when Woody and Forky end up lost and stuck in an antique store with the ill-intentioned Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks). As they try to escape from Gabby, Woody also ends up reconnecting with Bo Beep (voiced by Annie Potts), who has made a new life for herself as a toy without an owner. Does Bo’s new lifestyle appeal to Woody, who wonders what his role in Bonnie’s life is? And how will they save Forky?
“Toy Story 4” adopts an action-comedy format that is a little faster-paced and frenetic than preceding “Toy Story” films, and primarily centers Woody—this is really his story in every way. He feels responsible for Bonnie and Forky, has unresolved romantic feelings for Bo, and is frightened by Gabby, and the movie takes us along his journey through all of that. That does mean Buzz, Jessie, and other characters take a backseat, so viewers who love those characters most might be a little disappointed. But this world expands with new toys and with a few action sequences that are really thrilling, like when the toys all work together to try and save Forky from Gabby or distract Bonnie and her parents from what is going on. Scenes set at a carnival are bright and colorful, and the movie is consistently funny, especially when Woody has to chase Forky around to keep him from jumping into trashcans in an effort to return to the trash from which he was made.
The only frustrating element of “Toy Story 4” is the fact that this film might still only be an installment in a larger narrative. “Toy Story 3” ended in a way that demonstrated the love and affection these toys had for each other, and “Toy Story 4” does take that a step further by introducing what the toys think their purpose is, and how they move on from the relationships they have with their children. But the movie also ends so impactfully that it would be difficult to see this story moving forward, and hopefully there is a finality to “Toy Story 4” that ends the franchise on this high note.
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