Toy Story 4 (2019)
Toy Story 4 (2019)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: June 21st, 2019 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Josh Cooley Actors: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Joan Cusack, Tony Hale, Ally Maki

 


 

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ine years ago, faithful toy Woody (Tom Hanks) decides to stay with his “kid” rather than leave with donated doll Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Now, as a rarely played-with toy relegated to the closet more often than little Bonnie’s (Madeleine McGraw) make-believe adventures, Woody still dutifully attempts to ensure the girl’s happiness, even if it doesn’t include him. When the soon-to-be kindergartener returns home with a craft project creation, Forky (Tony Hale), Woody determines to keep the amalgamated figure safe, despite the spork’s own insistence on belonging in the refuse bin. During a road trip, the fidgety new “toy” leaps from the family’s rented RV, forcing Woody to embark on a calamitous journey to retrieve the sentient utensil that will bring him face to face with many new friends, including conjoined plush animals Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), gung-ho Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), miniature figurine Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki), and a long-lost ally from the plucky cowboy’s past.

“It’s time for the next kid.” Despite this being the fourth entry in the series (reaching questionable territory, since most sequels this far in have abandoned their quality long ago), there’s still an abundance of emotion exuded from mere talking toys. Normally, the continuation of a franchise that concluded so neatly nearly a decade before would be most unwelcome and hardly necessary; yet with Pixar’s signature attention to storytelling, revisiting these characters and their plights is thoroughly entertaining. It shouldn’t be so surprising, but the effectiveness of the studio’s planning, structuring, and execution is remarkably superior to their brethren – computer-animated and otherwise.

“She literally made a new friend.” Here, with the introduction of Forky – one of the most perfectly voiced characters in animation history – the plot again dips into some impressively mature concepts. They’re the kind that kids will easily ignore, while adults can snicker to themselves about just how introspective these playthings become. Dabbling in intricate existential notions, a sense of tragedy surrounds the lifespan of toys, the potential for neglect or abuse, sacrifice for a greater good, and explanations concerning sudden sentience. There’s even a notable parallel to suicide here, which is approached with a sublime humor that deflects any potential severity. Driving purposes – including undying missions to make children happy – reveal very human considerations; the designs of these roles and their heartfelt conversations reveal a wealth of humanity. The toys are more complex and multifaceted than the humans of virtually every blockbuster opening alongside this picture; even the villain isn’t evil for the sake of being evil, instead given a sensible backstory that defines her antagonistic behaviors, complete with room for redemptive potential.

Primarily, however, “Toy Story 4” is a comedy (it’s almost unfair to label it a children’s comedy), heaping on the laughs even when it mixes in an inexplicable amount of horror movie tropes. Were it not for the colorfulness of the animation, Gabby’s ventriloquist dummies would be the stuff of nightmares (in a notable coincidence, the “Child’s Play” remake opens on the same day, plus the next Annabelle chapter arrives in theaters just a few days later). And jump scares abound, though they’re deflated by encircling visual gags. The expertly-timed comedy is once again a high point, joined with the introductions of new toys and first appearances of nostalgic retro figures, an underworld toy society that sees anarchic participants enjoying the freedoms of the “lost toy” designation, and intricate search and rescue endeavors that boast exciting action and stellar choreography. Although it’s unusual for Pixar to continue a series for this long, if each new episode is going to remain this spectacular, keep them coming.

– The Massie Twins

  • 8/10