Almost 25 years ago, “Toy Story” became a groundbreaking achievement in animated storytelling for a new generation and when the trilogy concluded in 2010, it was finished so beautifully that it was impossible to believe the story could continue.
Which is why I was very nervous and almost angry when “Toy Story 4” was announced. A strange new character and unclear plot felt like another Hollywood cash grab.
I’m happy to say that Toy Story 4 continues the franchises excellence in almost every way and is actually my favorite sequel in the series.
Our story picks up with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of our favorite group of toys in Bonnie’s house shortly before she goes to kindergarten orientation. The young girl’s tears when her parents won’t let her take her toys along, provokes Woody into jumping into her backpack for the journey that ultimately leads to the creation of “Forky”, a spork with pipe cleaners for arms and popsicle sticks for legs, who helps Bonnie make it through the day.
The rest of the film involves Woody helping Forky realize his identity while navigating the group through a road trip that leads them back to old friends, while making some new ones, and encountering new adversaries as well.
Pixar somehow manages to make the film look even more beautiful than it’s predecessors, and the voice talent anchored by Tom Hank’s Woody, and Tim Allen’s Buzz, sounds just as wonderful as they did so many years ago.
All of the new characters work and Forky’s awkward personality as he treks along on popsicle sticks is an instant winner. New toys featuring the voices of Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Keegan Michael Key, and Jordan Peele all succeed in the story and the pacing gives everyone enough space to entertain and have fun.
My only critique of this film is that it’s done so well, Disney will likely rollout another sequel, and it’s only a matter of time before even Woody misses.
Until then, enjoy another great “Toy Story” film that does justice to it’s franchise and is one of the best times your family will have at the movies this year.
Running time: 90 minutes