Consider this, it’s been almost 25 years since the first Disney/Pixar “Toy Story” movie crossed our radar. Twenty years since “Toy Story 2” premiered and nine years since the Oscar-winning “Toy Story 3” played in theaters.
If you’re asking whether we need a “Toy Story 4” (Disney/Pixar) at this juncture, the answer is yes. Especially since Disney is insisting on throwing good money after bad on unnecessary live action adaptations of some of its most beloved classic cartoons (“Dumbo”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”). Among other things, “Toy Story 4” is a reminder of the kind of quality animation that Disney and Pixar are capable of delivering to audiences.
Opening with a montage of scenes from the titular toys’ experiences with their boy Andy and his younger sister Molly, it’s a sweet refresher course. The removal from Molly’s room of the lamp featuring Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) and her sheep leads to some heartbreak for Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), but before you know it, he and the other toys are also in a new home.
Now in the possession of Bonnie (voiced by Madeline McGraw), a girl who is soon going to be starting kindergarten. On the day of orientation, Bonnie makes a new toy companion for herself during arts and crafts. Forky (hilariously voiced by Tony Hale) is constructed of a spork, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and clay. Unbeknownst to Bonnie, these materials were retrieved from the trash and presented to her by Woody who snuck into her backpack so she wouldn’t have to endure the first day of school alone. Bonnie adores Forky. Unfortunately, he makes things difficult when he comes to life and only wants to be in the trash bin. This is one of the funniest bits in the movie.
With a couple of days to go before the official start of school, Bonnie’s parents pack her (and some toys) up in the RV and embark on one last road trip for the season. It’s at this point that anything that can go wrong does. The rogue Forky, intent on making a break for it, causes Woody to chase him down after each escape. This includes a pursuit outside of the swiftly moving RV. Of course, Bonnie is distraught because Forky is missing.
Having survived that episode, on the way to reuniting with Bonnie, her parents and the other toys at the RV park, Woody and Forky pass an antique store on the grounds where Woody recognizes Bo’s lamp in the window. Once inside the store, Woody meets up with vintage doll Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) and her ventriloquist dummy henchmen (if you were afraid of ventriloquist dummies before, “Toy Story 4” will only make matters worse). Gabby Gabby covets Woody’s pull-string voice box, which sets up another in a series of conflicts in the movie.
Temporarily leaving Forky in Gabby Gabby’s clutches, Woody is reunited with Bo, her sheep and her new crew, including tiny but tough doll Giggle McDimples (voiced by Ally Maki) and the insecure Canadian motorcycle daredevil toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). Woody enlists them in his mission to rescue Forky.
As was the case with the previous movies in the “Toy Story” series, the attention to detail is exceptional. The visuals are spectacular and not a single frame is wasted. Also, the movie is full of messages (including one involving Buzz Lightyear about listening to your inner voice) that are valuable to audience members of all ages. Not a tearjerker in the way that “Toy Story 3” was, “Toy Story 4” is fun to play with.