It’s been almost 25 years since the first Toy Story, and Pixar keeps coming up with lovable characters inhabiting relatable stories, culminating in a bittersweet conclusion.
Now that Andy’s off to college, little Bonnie (Madeline McGraw) has inherited his beloved toys: Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), et al.
During her kindergarten orientation, nervous Bonnie crafts Forky (Tony Hale) out of a discarded plastic spork with mismatched googly eyes, pipe cleaner arms, wax-stick mouth and popsicle-stick feet.
“She literally made a new friend,” Woody tells the gang, explaining the clumsy creation.
When Bonnie’s parents plan an impromptu RV road trip, Forky comes along, even though he’s convinced that, as a utensil, he belongs in the trash bin, instead of the toy box.
Predictably, he gets lost – and it’s up to heroic Woody to find him: “I was made to help a child. I don’t remember it being this hard.”
In an antique store window, Woody spies the lamp belonging to the shepherdess Bo Peep (Annie Potts), whom he hasn’t seen in years. Their reunion leads them to a defective doll, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), and her scarily servile ventriloquist-dummy pals who are determined to steal Woody’s pull-string voice-box mechanism.
Plus there’s perennially posing Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), a Canadian daredevil motorcyclist, and a pair of carnival-prize stuffed animals (Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele).
Working with writers Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom, director Josh Cooley cleverly explores the existential concepts of change, loss, letting go and moving on, augmented as always by Randy Newman’s delightful score, including “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and the highest quality of photo-realistic animation.
“The world of ‘Toy Story’ is built upon the idea that everything in the world has a purpose,” notes Cooley. “A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child. But what if that toy is a disposable spork?”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Toy Story 4” is an enjoyable 8, wholesome entertainment for the entire family.