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Pixar Has Done It Again With “Toy Story 4”

You’ve still got a friend in them. Fear not, for Pixar has beaten the odds with Toy Story 4. Opening up this week, the sequel finds a moving and wholly unexpected way to continue the adventures of Woody, Buzz, and company. With new delightful characters, an ending you won’t see coming, and a message aimed more at adults than ever before, this is something special. Any worries that the animation giant would fumble the fourth time around are for naught. Not only is this one of Pixar’s best, it’s also one of the best films of the year so far, without question.

The third sequel in the Toy Story franchise, Toy Story 4 finds both a new beginning as well as potential end for the series. Now living with Bonnie, Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) and the rest of Andy’s former toys have a new kid. However, Woody isn’t the focus of Bonnie’s attention, leaving him somewhat without a purpose. When she starts school, he hitches a ride with her to make sure everything is alright. In the process, he witnesses her create her own new toy in Forky (voice of Tony Hale), a spork that doesn’t even understand what toys are. Forky constantly tries to escape to the trash, with Woody, Buzz (voice of Tim Allen), and company attempting to stop him. When this happens on a road trip, Woody ends up stranded on the road with Forky. As the rest of the toys try to keep Bonnie’s parents from driving off, Woody and Forky encounter new toys like Gabby Gabby (voice of Christina Hendricks) and Duke Caboom (voice of Keanu Reeves), as well as an old flame of Woody’s in Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). To say more about the adventure would be to spoil things, but just know that this is an immensely satisfying tale, in all regards. Josh Cooley directs a screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton (though the original screen story is credited to not just Cooley, Folsom, and Stanton, but also Martin Hynes, Rashida Jones, Valerie LaPointe and Will McCormack). Randy Newman provides the music, while the supporting voices include Patricia Arquette, Mel Brooks, Joan Cusack, Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Estelle Harris, Jay Hernandez, Bonnie Hunt, Keegan-Michael Key, Laurie Metcalf, Jordan Peele, John Ratzenberger, Carl Reiner, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Betty White, and more.

I absolutely loved this film. Not only is it easily the best looking of the Toy Story saga, it finds an incredible way to mix action, adventure, comedy, and emotion. There’s even some near horror moments, as Forky and Woody find themselves in an antique store lorded over by Gabby Gabby, who has some creepy minions in ventriloquist’s dummies. The voice work remains terrific, with Tom Hanks going above and beyond. If there’s anything holding this back from being perfect, too many of the toys are under utilized this time around, though it’s largely in the service of focusing on Hanks’ Woody, who sees his story truly come full circle.

Toy Story 4 is a movie that adults and children will love in equal measure, but for completely different reasons. The concept of accepting endings, letting go of the past, and the sad nature of being a toy is fully addressed here. The series has always somewhat ignored the fact that for a toy, the only outcomes once a child grows up are bad ones. Here, that’s not the case. Though not the sob fest that Toy Story 3 is, this is as melancholy an outing as it gets, especially when the focus isn’t on the ample amounts of action. Kids will be thrilled by the adventure at hand, though parents will understand just how mature the story being told is.

Starting on Friday, audiences the world over are in for a treat when Toy Story 4 unspools in cinemas. Look for a full new ranking of the Pixar movies at the end of the week to see just where it stands among the company’s best, but know that it’s a tremendous achievement, without question. If this is the end of the franchise, it’s going out on a brilliant note. If there’s a Toy Story 5 to come, there will be a huge challenge in crafting it (to say more would be a spoiler), but at this point, in Pixar we trust. Regardless, Toy Story 4 is a massive success, with huge box office, awards, and universal acclaim in its future. Bravo…

Be sure to check out Toy Story 4, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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