It’s hard to believe that 24 years ago, the first Toy Story was released and it revolutionized animated films. So how does this fourth chapter fit in the scheme of things? Pretty much like this.
While most franchises run out of good reasons to keep going by this point, I’m happy to report that this fourth installment manages to retain the same level of humor, tears, delightful animation and voice work as the first three.
I think the main reason why these films work the way they do is because the filmmakers are able to craft a story with enough wit and humor and heart to match its technical ambitions and give us characters we genuinely care about.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are back leading an all-star cast as Woody and Buzz Lightyear and they’re with their new owner, Bonnie after the heartfelt ending of the third one. Bonnie is getting ready to start kindergarten but before she does her family decides to go on a road trip and of course, the toys come along for the ride.
We get a slew of new characters introduced. Among them is a spork named Forky (Tony Hale) who believes he’s trash instead of a toy after Bonnie made him. This leads to some insightful exchanges between Forky and Woody.
Woody finds himself an antique shop and there he’s reunited with Bo Peep (Annie Potts). He also encounters a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her trio of bizarre ventriloquist dolls who don’t want either of them to leave.
Other characters that pop up include Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as a bunny and a duck at a carnival.
Oh, and of course, Keanu Reeves costars as Duke Caboom, Canada’s equivalent of Evel Knievel who longs desperately to redeem himself after his commercial lets down his former owner by not being able to jump as far as he’s supposed to.
Hanks and Allen are unsurprisingly wonderful again as Woody and Buzz Lightyear and they’re surrounded by mostly the same cast that also brings their A-game.
The standouts of this one are Hale, Key and Peele and Reeves. They all deliver funny and charismatic work and their characters actually add to the story instead of being tangential.
As with the previous films, there’s a great degree of intelligence, laugh-out-loud moments, and a visual texture to the animation that makes it feel more believable and detailed than ever before. If you don’t believe me, check out a cat in that antique shop.
The movie does end on a high note and I’m not sure if a fifth film is necessary, but you know what? I’m willing to see these toys get played with again.