After 24 years, the saga of Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear is coming to an end—apparently—with Toy Story 4.
It’s remarkable when a sequel is well-done and entertaining—even more so when it comes many years after the original film and it’s the fourth film in the franchise.
In “Toy Story 4” Pixar is continuing the fun and the adventures. But more to the point, they are still aware of the pathos behind the whole computer-animated world here—the idea that the toys yearn to be played with, to be loved—lest they fade away, forgotten and forsaken, like Puff the Magic Dragon.
That’s been the idea behind Toy Story since the first film in 1995, when Sheriff Woody became alarmed that his Human, Andy was casting him off for Buzz Lightyear.
In TS 4, Andy has long since grown up and gone off to college. Woody (still voiced by Tom Hanks) is now devoted to a new Human, little Bonnie.
When Bonnie goes off to her first scary day of kindergarten, she finds some comfort by improvising a toy out of a used spork. So Woody conscientiously tries to mentor the new guy, named “Forky” (voiced by Tony Hale) who is confused and keeps trying to jump in the trash.
When the humans take a road trip, Forky falls out the window, Woody jumps out after him. And a small town where the family stops becomes a whole new planet for our heroes.
Woody and Forky wind up in a spooky antique shop. (You know it’s spooky because the scratchy gramophone plays the Overlook Hotel music from The Shining.) They’re menaced by the unctuous Gabby Gabby, (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who came out of the box with a factory defect and covets Woody’s functioning voicebox.
On the brighter side, Woody reunites with his old friend, Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) who was boxed up and carried away a decade ago. She’s become a so-called Lost Toy, a strong, dashing figure with her own crew of followers. And she gets Woody wondering if his Purpose always has to be focused on a human.
There are some elements in the movie that smell like sequel-it is. I found Forky tiring more than quirky and charming (okay that’s me.) I wished we’d seen more of Buzz Lightyear (inimitably voiced as always by Tim Allen). And there’s a whole gaggle of toys new and old to keep track of, including vocals from Timothy Dalton, Carl Weather, Keanu Reeves (as Duke Caboom, an insecure Evel Knievel-style toy) and some cameos I just plain missed by Mel Brooks, Betty White and Carol Burnett.
Two fun new additions are Ducky and Bunny who are kewpie dolls. Since they’re voice by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key--yep, they’re streetwise and they have fantasies of going all Chucky on the nearest hapless human.
Will Pixar be tempted to go for a sequel? Probably, but I hope not. This is a fun, warm-hearted picture (it even shows empathy, in the end, for Gabby Gabby) and it’s a fitting wrap-up for Woody, Buzz and the gang.
Even though it’s been taken out of the original box, I’d say Toy Story 4 gets four stars out of five.