Toy Story 4 (PG)

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, 

Directed by Josh Cooley

When 2010’s Toy Story 3 came out, it was thought to be the end of a saga for Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and their fellow playthings. It had a real sense of finality (the toys’ owner, Andy, is off to college and they’re given away to another kid, Bonnie), but that turns out to be a fake-out now that the gang is back in Toy Story 4.  If that threequel is likened to a rock group’s farewell tour, then the new movie is their reunion tour, where they dazzle fans with a mixed bag of familiar hits and new material.

The ‘familiar’ bit is the toy-needs-rescuing premise: this time, Woody & Co. (they haven’t aged a day over 25 years) set out to save Forky (Veep’s Tony Hale), a DIY toy Bonnie made from a spork (he can’t figure out if he’s a toy or trash), who’s trapped in an antique shop ruled by Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a creepy pull-string doll with even creepier ventriloquist dummies for henchmen. (They belong in the same movie as Annabelle.) 

Along the way, Woody encounters former girlfriend Bo Peep (Annie Potts), and — ‘new material’ — runaway conjoined plush dolls Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and Duke Caboom (Keanu ‘Whoa’ Reeves), an Evel Knievel-esque stuntman from Canada.

If you know your Pixar flicks, the action is inventive and energetic, the wisecracks and visual gags come at you fast and furious, even if they feel a little repetitive at times. If some scenes remind you of Finding Dory that’s probably because Andrew Stanton had a say in both scripts.

As delighted and demented (I’m talking to you, Ducky and Bunny) as the new characters are, they’re introduced at the expense of neglecting the original crew; Buzz is demoted from second lead to a supporting role. Make no mistake, Toy Story 4’s focus in on Woody and how he deals with his existential crisis. (What else can he do if he is no longer a toy?)

Do I feel a little betrayed that Toy Story 3 didn’t bookend the series as it was hyped to do? A bit, but you can’t hold a grudge against Pixar for too long. If there’s one that Pixar does every well is bittersweet, and in Toy Story 4, the ending is just as poignant as the one in the last movie, and there is some kind of a closure (again). Let’s hope this is really their last hurrah. Please don’t make me cry again.(***1/2)

Photo: Disney 

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