“Tell me a story.” Mission accomplished again by Pixar. Toy Story 4 shows that you can go to the sequel well over and over if you keep delivering compelling stories.
Oh, and it helps to have characters who are, by now, not just familiar but also beloved. Cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) gets the main spotlight in TS4. He’s one of many toys in the closet of young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) and he is NOT one of her favorites. But he’s the one who is most concerned about Bonnie’s ability to cope with the pressures of kindergarten orientation.
A handmade toy that Bonnie assembles from a plastic spork and a pipe cleaner becomes her primary concern. “Forky” (Tony Hale) becomes a member of Bonnie’s toy menagerie but he has little self-respect. Woody steps in to help him focus.
Bonnie’s family takes an RV trip to a town with an antique store. The store and its wares provide an intriguing setting for toy adventures.
Woody reconnects with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and meets new characters Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reaves). The latter two are inspired by Mattel’s Chatty Cathy and the Evel Knievel motorcycle toy that never performed quite as well in real life as on the TV spot.
Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) keeps showing up and continues to push a button on his chest that generates a recorded soundbite. He considers this his “inner voice” and takes guidance from those brief gems.
Among the film’s most entertaining voice actors are Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a pair of stuffed animals who escape from a carnival game prize wall.
Toy Story 4 is filled with delight and fun surprises from beginning to end. There are a couple of scary situations but the peril is less intense than that seen in Toy Story 3.
Pixar’s animation and tech skills have been a given for a quarter century. Other studios have also turned out impressive images and effects. But it is Pixar’s storytelling ability makes most of their films special.
Toy Story 4 is yet another Pixar winner.
(Note: In a change from the usual Pixar format, there is no animated short running before TS4.)