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Toy Story 4

As TOY STORY 3 came to its profoundly satisfying, sob-inducing conclusion, it felt like the fitting ending to one of the most endearing franchises in the history of cinema. 

It seems like the prefect farewell to a collection of characters that have been delighting audiences since their inception in 1995. So, when it was announced that TOY STORY 4 was slated for a 2019 release, I couldn’t have been more shocked. I couldn’t fathom a reason to delve back into the world, and was concerned that a fourth installment would somehow taint the overall legacy and impact of the flawless trilogy. Thankfully, these fears were misbegotten, as the recently released TOY STORY 4 is a worthy companion to the films that came before it, and stands on its own merit as a wholly delightful family adventure that will surely rank amongst the best family films of the year.

Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Rex (Wallace Shawn), the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, Hamm (John Ratzenberger), and the rest of the toy crew areenjoying their reinvigorated existence as young Bonnie’s toys. Though it was difficult to leave Andy behind, they find themselves back amidst games and adventures, though Woody’s star seems to be fading somewhat. Though he longs to be chosen as part of the playtime crew, he is often relegated to the closet. Still, he understands the importance of being there for Bonnie as she navigates the perils of childhood. This becomes particularly true when, sensing her reservations and outright fear of attending kindergarten orientation, Woody sneaks into her backpack in order to provide the moral support that may be needed. 

Bonnie struggles to make connections on her first day, and finds herself sitting alone when it comes time to build a craft. Woody, witnessing the unfolding devastation firsthand, quickly collects supplies for Bonnie when she steps away. When she returns to her table, she finds a number of objects including a spork, a red pipe cleaner, and googly eyes. With this odd assortment, she crafts her very own friend. Thus, the delightfully absurd and scene-stealing Forky (Tony Hale) is born. 

The young girl becomes instantly enamored with her new creation, and though Forky is reluctant to embrace his new place in the world, Woody is there to help him learn the ropes. This becomes ever more apparent as Forky attempts to throw himself into the trash at every conceivable moment, going so far as to chuck himself out of an RV window as it speeds down the highway. Woody, realizing the spork’s importance in Bonnie’s life, goes after him, setting into motion a road trip that will test the limits of companionship and loyalty. Along the way, Forky will learn the importance of his existence, and Woody crosses paths with his long lost, beloved Bo Peep (Annie Potts.)

Though questions swirled in regards to its relevance in the planning stages, now that TOY STORY 4 is here, I’m elated that it proves to be the sequel we never knew we needed.  In 2019, there is something wholly refreshing, and almost daring, about a G-rated family film that slides into the summer season and holds its own. Endearing, charming, and often hilarious, it utilizes dazzling animation, a wonderful script, and impeccable voice talents to command the attention of every single viewer, regardless of their age. Like its predecessors, this installment features familiar favorites in regards to characters, and finds a way to seamlessly introduce new ones. Whether it’s the high-flying antics of Canada’s greatest daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), the comedic duo of Ducky (Keegan-Michael Kay) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), the tortured and possibly less-villainous-than-you-thought Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) or the indelible Forky, there is enough originality and character development to warrant this additional chapter in the TOY STORY saga. 

For a film, and a franchise, that is literally built upon mass marketability, it is pretty astounding that the production comes across as both intimate and heartwarming. It is the rare movie that forces even the most cynical of cinemagoers to let down their guard, and embrace the whimsical charm of these fictional friends. This, of course, is because director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom seamlessly tap into the nostalgic vulnerabilities of its audience. Whether it was the first installment in 1995, or this one in 2019, the viewer can’t help but draw sentimental parallels between the characters on the screen, and warm memories of childhood. And, though there are moments of unnerving peril, there is also a constant barrage of empowering kindness and warmth that is largely vacant in modern filmmaking.

Once again, it appears that we have reached a delightful end to the TOY STORY tale, and yet, I surely wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, we saw the crew again. As a franchise that has now spanned generations, and engaged and entertained from its initial inception, there is a sentimental connection forged between each one of these characters, and the millions of adoring fans who have allowed them to infiltrate our lives and revolutionize the way we see our toys.

Toy Story 4

RATED: G

RUN TIME: 1h 40min

GENRE: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

STARRING: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts

DIRECTORs: Josh Cooley

Writers:   John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton

GRADE: A

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to
attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.