With an adventure so playful and a heart so big and plushy, this fourth outing has a Friend in Me.
“Toy Story” is probably the greatest animated franchise of all time. Ever since 1995, when it became the first fully computer animated movie, each sequel took new heights, and expanded their horizons with one colorful character and one touching story after another. In fact, “Toy Story 3” was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2011. That proves how miraculous this franchise is.
Each film took risks, and the characters from Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) to Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) never rely on the same old gimmicks. They portray toys you truly care about. If “Toy Story 2” went straight to video, we probably would never have seen “Toy Story 3” or “Toy Story 4.”
Speaking of which, “Toy Story 4,” now directed by Josh Cooley (“Inside Out”) and produced by Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Mark Nielsen (“Inside Out”), is a miracle of an animated sequel-the kind that touches your heart in ways that make you smile and tear. Most like “Hotel Transylvania 2” or “The Secret Life of Pets 2” care only about the money; despite being made by the most profitable studio, this one knows what love and compassion are.
Lately, we’ve been suffering from terrible sequels to such hits like “Men in Black International” or “Dark Phoenix,” such a depressing conclusion to the “X-Men” franchise. If “Toy Story 4” is the last one, then it closes it very well.
Returning to the show is Woody’s old love Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), who was given away, as you recall, and returns as the more adventurous type. Forget the big pink dress and bonnet, she has a pink bow in her hair, a cape, her sheep, and a little toy cop named Giggle McDimples (voiced by Ally Maki) as her sidekicks.
The sequel also offers new characters, including Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), a toy little Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw) makes as an arts and crafts project during her kindergarten orientation, who refuses to accept his fate as a playmate. He’s probably the best ditzy Disney supporting character I’ve seen since Olaf the snowman in “Frozen,” because of his dialogue, voice, and how he constantly tries to throw himself in the trash can.
We also have two carnival toys named Ducky and Bunny (voiced by the comedy duo Key & Peele), a female doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks), and a Canadian stuntman toy named Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves)-all of whom want kids of their own, and all of them are fascinating in ways you have to see to believe.
How many animated sequels can move you in many ways? It’s very rare. Sure, we get charmers like “Shrek 2” or the “Despicable Me” sequels, but they don’t have that magical sparkle that the “Toy Story” movies have. At least the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy comes as close as any franchise.
The animation is able to morph over the years of the studio’s success, adjusting to time periods and flexibility. Nothing generic is designed, and I’m very pleased at that. And the humor is aimed for both kids and grown-ups, and I was smiling at the jokes.
The story is also challenging, if you look at it through a toy’s perspective. But mostly, there’s honesty and kindness inside. There are no sinister villains. You might think Gabby Gabby is by the trailers, but she’s not evil. And the movie doesn’t overdose on new characters. Gabby Gabby, Giggles McDimples, Forky, Ducky, Bunny, and Duke Caboom are all fine additions, and well voiced by Hendricks, Maki, Hale, Key, Peele, and Reeves.
And it’s also refreshing to hear Potts back in her iconic animated role of Bo Peep, and the fresh personality given to her. And if anyone thinks they can replace Hanks as Woody and Allen as Buzz, then they’re wrong.
I loved this movie very, very much. In fact, two scenes, I was a little watery. I won’t say what, but you’ll know once you see this movie. Don’t see it as a sequel only for kids. See it for yourself. It’s wonderful, it’s miraculous, and it’s excellent.
Even the late Don Rickles would have been proud of this sequel.