After having found a new home with Bonnie (voice of Madeleine McGraw) when Andy headed to college, pull-string cowboy Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) won't admit how upset he is about being the one often left in the closet during playtime, despite Bonnie's name written on the bottom of his boot. When 'his kid' is sent to kindergarten orientation, Woody breaks the rules, stowing away in her backpack and coming to the rescue when Bonnie sits alone, her carton of arts and crafts supplies swiped by another child. Woody rummages through the trash and Bonnie finds a popsicle stick, lump of clay, a pipe cleaner, a mismatched pair of googly eyes and a spork to fashion a new toy she names Forkie. But Forkie (voice of Tony Hale) panics in his new role and when Bonnie's family goes on an RV road trip, Woody makes it his mission to instill Forkie with an understanding of what an honor it is to be a kid's favorite toy in "Toy Story 4."
If you thought "Toy Story 3" was the end of the road for Woody and the gang, guess again. This fourth entry in a series (screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom, directed by Josh Cooley) parents, at least, have long recognized as dealing with love and mortality, is a spiritual allegory that finds Woody submitting to an 'organ transplant' to give new life to another before ascending to his own version of heaven. It's funny, a grand adventure, quite moving and the perfect ending to a ground breaking series.
The film opens with a flashback to a rescue mission nine years earlier, Woody, Bo Peep and Slinky joining forces to save a toy from becoming lost as its swept down a gutter (in "Toy Story" parlance, becoming lost is akin to death). Andy, who's been looking for his favorite toy, finds Woody slumped in the street just before the cowboy is horrified to discover Bo Peep has been given away, no longer needed by Andy's sister Molly as a night light. A montage brings us up to date through Andy's departure and his gifting of his old friends to young Bonnie.
Forkie proves quite the handful for Woody, the gussied up spork intent on returning to the trash from whence he came. Seizing an opportunity, Forkie allows himself to be blown out the RV's window on a dark road at night. Woody tells the gang he'll catch up with them at the next RV park and jumps, trudging down the road until he finds the AWOL utensil. On the long walk back, the repeated refrain of 'Carry me!' 'No.' will be familiar to tired parents everywhere, but as Woody relates his long history and loyalty to first Andy, then Bonnie, Forkie finally gets it. Only they don't make it all the way back, as Woody, spying Bo Peep's lamp in the town's antique shop window, slips through its mail slot to locate his old crush (the facing profiles of cowboy Woody and the bonneted Bo Peep scream classic Western romance).
That antique shop is a maze of both wonders and horrors, Woody encountering Gabby Gabby (voice of Christina Hendricks), a defective toy who immediately notes his working voice box. She's been sitting on a shelf too long and has a small army of creepy ventriloquist dummies to do her bidding. But back in the RV, the gang's on high alert. Cowgirl Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack) punctures one of the RV's tires to buy time while Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) listens to his 'inner voice' in a quest to save his pal.
Several new characters delight, most notably Duke Caboom (voiced by a game Keanu Reeves), a toy Canadian stunt cyclist with severe confidence problems. Buzz gets hung up along with prizes for a carnival game, meeting Bunny and Ducky (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key). And who knew that Bo Peep's sheep had names (Billy, Goat and Gruff voiced by Emily Davis)? Bo Peep, now a 'lost toy' who rides around in a vehicle disguised as a skunk (the better to scatter humans), has turned warrior, her staff her super hero gadget, but she's acquired a new friend, Giggle McDimples (voice of Ally Maki), who is the least of the new additions. Watch for a cameo from 'Tinny,' the one-man-band windup from Pixar's 1988 short "Tin Toy."
The computer generated animation, which so astounded back with the first film (the first wholly CGI animation), is still best in class, details like indoor outdoor carpeting and the dusty buildup on an outlet behind a display case looking photorealistic, the film's 'humans' given distinctive facial features and other characteristics. A running joke among Bonnie's toys involves them getting her dad arrested and his character (voice of Jay Hernandez) spends much of the film in an amusing state of frustration.
The "Toy Story" franchise has always been centered on Woody, his need to be needed maturing into something noble and heroic. This fourth installment finds him making peace with letting go, and in so doing, finding another kind of happiness.
Robin did not see this film.
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