TOY STORY 4 Might Be The Funniest Woody And Buzz Adventure Yet

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Toy Story 4 opens June 21, 2019.

It’s incredible to think about the Toy Story film franchise. When the first installment hit theatres back in 1995, it made a tiny little animation studio called Pixar a household name. It’s hard to believe that was nearly a quarter of a century ago. Computer-driven animation was just barely in its adolescence. What director John Lasseter and his team of writers and animators came up with was a story for the ages, a sensationally fun yet tender examination of the power of a child’s imagination. Sequels Toy Story 2 (1999) and Toy Story 3 (2010) only enriched the story of Andy’s toys, most notable Sheriff Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, and Buzz Lightyear (Space Ranger), voiced by Tim Allen. The supporting cast in each film was likewise stellar, including the likes of Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Annie Potts (Bo Peep), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head) and the talents of the late Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), R. Lee Ermey (Sarge), and Jim Varney (Slinky Dog, now voiced by Blake Clark). For a generation, fans of the series have laughed and likely cried over the zany, laugh-out-loud funny adventures of old toys you may still have one or more of in your house right now, The franchise seemed to find closure in Toy Story 3, where Andy gives a neighbor girl named Bonnie his prized toys as he heads off to college. That exchange was tough on the tear ducts! When Toy Story 4 was announced back in 2014, Buzz and Woody fans wondered what the new story would be about.

The wait is over! Randy Newman is singing “You Got A Friend In Me”!  The whole gang is back, including Don Rickles, who passed away in 2017. At the request of his family, his lines were pulled from archival footage. Joining the usual toys this time are Tony Hale as Forky, Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom, Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Ducky and Bunny, Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples, and comedy legends Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White and Carl Reiner as some of Bonnie’s older toys. It would be a disservice to you to give a detailed plot summary, but the basic premise is that Bonnie’s family goes on a road trip and stops at a carnival. The toys get into another crazy adventure, where Gabby Gabby is nominally the villain though she’s not nearly as diabolical as Lotso was in Toy Story 3 (her silent henchman, a ventriloquist dummy, is rather chilling). Woody and Bo Peep’s relationship gets a chance to be explored, and Forky is an unexpected but highly enjoyable addition to the old gang. Ducky and Bunny are outrageous and Duke Caboom makes me want to dig out my old Evel Kinevel toy motorbike. It all culminates in another heartfelt ending that makes you wonder if there will be a Toy Story 5. My guess is “probably”. Hollywood seldom leaves money on the table, and of all of Pixar’s highly successful films, the Toy Story franchise is it’s crown jewel. If this truly is the last Toy Story chapter, it bows out with grace and style and a lot of belly laughs.  

The computer animation at Pixar is much lauded, but with 25 years of technology improvement and process refinements, Toy Story 4 looks incredible. The details and textures they can achieve now are stunning. Heavily played with toys like Buzz are now showing small scrapes and imperfections as you’d expect to see after all of the adventures he’s had with and without Andy’s knowledge. The environments look photorealistic most of the time; the yard Bonnie’s father has kept would be the envy of every mower jockey on the planet. Bo Peep looks to have benefitted from the technical enhancements as well -- her face looks a little more expressive and, well, animated, than in the previous films.

Honestly, if there was any major issue with the film, I’d have mentioned it by now, so there’s no need to fill more space telling you what you already know: it’s Pixar, it’s Toy Story (4), and you’re already going to see it. Enjoy!  

4.5 / 5.0