Saturday, June 22, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Toy Story 4 (2019)

It's been close to a decade since the release of TOY STORY 3 (2010). That film was universally hailed as an excellent cap to a fine trilogy of movies, causing many people to wonder "Why?" when TOY STORY 4 (2019) was first announced.

Well, wonder no more. Pixar has done it again, and TOY STORY 4 is another excellent entry in the series. It may not have much of the laugh-out-loud humor of the last film -- remember Buzz (Tim Allen) speaking Spanish? -- but it has a strong story with emotional pull -- not to mention the return of Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who was missing from the last film.

And there is a very funny addition to the cast in daredevil motorcycle rider Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves). And now that I think about it, the sequence with the toys taking over the operation of the motor home was pretty hilarious too... Yep, it's just a really good movie that pulls all the right strings (pun slightly intended -- see the movie).

The film opens to a flashback of the night Bo Peep left Andy's house, then zooms forward in time to Woody (Tom Hanks) and the gang's new "child" Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) ready to start kindergarten.

Woody is increasingly being left on the shelf in favor of other toys, but he manages to accompany the nervous Bonnie to kindergarten orientation and provides her the materials to make Forky (Tony Hale), a spork which Bonnie turns into a toy.

Forky has trouble adjusting to the idea he's a toy, which creates no end of problems for Woody and the gang when they all hit the road in a motor home with Bonnie's family; Bonnie loves Forky, but he keeps trying to disappear until he finally grasps the importance of his role in Bonnie's life.

At one point Woody and Forky visit an antique store and meet up with the half adorable, half scary doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), who's aided in her search for a new voice box by some definitely creepy ventriloquist dummies.

More fortuitously, Woody is unexpectedly reunited with Bo, who's been living a life of freedom with her pal Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki). Woody's feelings for Bo haven't dimmed, and he'll ultimately have a big decision to make about his future.

I suppose one could say that the film is repetitive in its musings on the lives and purpose of toys, but it's hard to mind when it's done with such depth and class. Like the other films in the series, the movie is heart-tugging at times, but the emotions are earned.

I'm not sure a TOY STORY film has ever looked better. The visual beauty of the picture is remarkable. One of my favorite scenes was simply Woody and Forky walking down a road and talking; everything about the look of that moment was remarkable, from the mist to the damp gravelly road.

The film runs 100-well paced minutes. My only real quibble with the movie is that I missed seeing Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Sarge (voice actor R. Lee Ermey died last year); also, there wasn't much screen time for the Little Green Men, but I guess there wasn't room for everyone this time around. At least the Little Green Men got a genuinely heroic moment at the end of TOY STORY 3!

The movie does bring back Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head; Rickles died in 2017, but he had planned to be part of the movie and archival audio of his voice was cobbled together for this film with his family's blessing. The film pays tribute to Rickles at the very end of the credits; be sure to sit through the credits for both that and a series of amusing "tag" scenes, including one during the final Pixar logo.

Additional voices were supplied by John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, Laurie Metcalf, Carl Weathers, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, and many more.

TOY STORY 4 was directed by Josh Cooley, who was one of several contributors to the story and screenplay.

Unusually, there was no Pixar short preceding the movie.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated G.

Previously: TOY STORY (1995), TOY STORY 2 (1999), and TOY STORY 3 (2010).

Related: Today at Disney's California Adventure: Toy Story Midway Mania! (2008).


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