Launched way back in 1995, Toy Story has become one of Pixar's most successful franchises. Now, some 20 years later, the studio returns to the well with Toy Story 4, another marvelously animated flick with a heartwarming storyline about loyalty and friendship. It opens areawide on Friday.
The film picks up where Toy Story 3 left off. Andy (John Morris) has handed off Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). Bonnie loves the toys but doesn't show the same favoritism toward Woody. Woody, however, still feels protective, and when Bonnie heads off to kindergarten for the first time, he sneaks into her backpack to make sure she adjusts to being away from home.
The first day of school finds Bonnie sitting at a table by herself, and to keep her from having a meltdown, Woody intervenes and helps her with an arts and crafts exercise by pulling a few items out of the trash after another student steals her supplies. Using a spork and some other cast-off materials, she creates Forky (Tony Hale), a rather odd-looking thing with a lazy eye and wire-thin arms.
Bonnie, however, thinks of Forky as a cherished toy, and Woody regularly has to keep an eye on the thing since it constantly wants to toss itself into the trash bin from whence it came.
To reward Bonnie for making it through her first day of school, her parents rent an RV and head off on a road trip, toys included. Forky and Woody become separated from the rest of the toys, and the rest of the film follows their exploits as they visit an antiques shop where Woody reunites with the long-lost Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and meets a few other creepy old toys who are hoping to be reunited with a child.
The film hammers home its point about loyalty and friendship while delivering some comedic relief via Buzz Lightyear, who finds his "inner voice," and Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), a couple of smack-talking toys that the gang meets at a carnival.
During a summer when many sequels have fizzled (see Dark Phoenix, Happy Death Day 2U, Hellboy), it's refreshing to see that at least one franchise still has some vitality to it.