“Toy Story 4” is the directorial debut for Josh Cooley and is written by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom. This is the fourth installment of Pixar’s Toy Story franchise dating back to the original in 1995 and returns a huge cast of characters that some of us have known our whole lives, led by Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear. Annie Potts returns as Bo Peep, but her character gets more to do this time around than in the first three movies combined so it’s like meeting a new toy all together. There are several new voices behind new toys to meet as well, led by Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, Tony Hale as Forky, Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom, Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky and Jordan Peele as Bunny.
The story continues where we left the toys at the end of 2010’s “Toy Story 3.” Andy has left for college and he gives his toys to a young girl, Bonnie, so that she can play with them now. Bonnie is having a lot of fun with her new friends, but Woody is having a little trouble adjusting to life after Andy. When Bonnie returns from Kindergarten orientation with a new toy that she made herself, Forky, Woody finds new purpose in protecting Forky to keep his kid happy. If you’ve seen a Toy Story movie before, you know that adventure, mishaps, humor, tragedy and redemption come with this new development for our toys.
“Toy Story 4” is yet another well-made animated feature from Pixar and a worthy entry in the Toy Story saga. The ending of “Toy Story 3” wrapped the story up in such an emotionally satisfying way that I personally didn’t want to see another Toy Story film. I thought it could only disappoint us after the first three were so great, but “Toy Story 4” brings a new type of story to the table that takes the characters to new places, both physically and emotionally. Toy Story villains are almost always tragic, sympathetic figures who serve as a lesson for our heroes, and the audience, to learn from, and they do interesting things with this film’s villain as well. With the exception of Sid from the first film, Toy Story is rarely about good v. evil. It’s about characters grappling with their purpose in the world, doing what they can to help the people they care about and learning life lessons along the way.
It’s great seeing our favorite toys on screen together once again, and this time around, they look better than ever. The animation has always been crisp and fun in Toy Story, but the animation quality for the newest installment makes Woody, Buzz and their world look the best they’ve ever looked. The toys themselves have always looked great and still do, but the world around them has gotten a noticeable upgrade. There are times when we are looking at the environment from the toys’ perspective, and whether it’s a power strip behind a shelf, or a carousel at a carnival, all the digital animation looks phenomenal.
Whether it’s for good or ill, “Toy Story 4” may become the go-to example and excuse for extending a franchise years after it had seemingly wrapped things up in a great way. After seeing the fourth film, I find myself feeling a lot like I did after seeing the third one. We were left with a very satisfying ending, and if they never made another one that would be fine with me, but at this point, if I have faith in any one franchise to keep going strong forever, it has to be Toy Story.
Griffin’s Score 9/10