Toy Story 4

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I’ve heard a few critics calling this 4th movie nothing but a money-grab. Uh, yeah. I suppose it is. But you can make that argument with any sequel. And hey…Paul McCartney is doing a concert in town on Saturday night. He is 77-years-old. My friend saw him in Texas recently and said it sounded awful and his voice is so bad these days that he should retire. Why is nobody calling out Sir Paul, who is a billionaire, for his tour being a “money-grab”? If people are willing to go (and his concert sold out), and they’re having fun, it’s all good. And people are going to go to Toy Story 4, and they’re going to have fun. It wasn’t nearly as good as the first three movies, just as McCartney doesn’t sound as good as when he was in San Diego with The Wings in 1976.

This story picks up where the last left off. Woody (Tom Hanks) is missing Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts), and he’s also a bit stressed about his kid Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) not picking him to play with anymore. She does rip his badge off and gives it to one of the female toys. My wife leaned in and said, “I’m getting a little tired of Woody constantly being so neurotic.”

I chuckled as he pretended like he’s not keeping track of how often Bonnie plays with him. Yet when he sees she’s stressed about the first day of kindergarten, he sneaks into her back-pack to be there for her. It’s great he does, too. She was having an “incident” at school, and Woody helps her out. She’s supposed to design a pencil holder with various crafts, but when another kid takes her supplies, she starts crying. Woody jumps into the trash can and and grabs some things in there she can use. Bonnie then takes a plastic spork, glues eyes onto it, puts a pipe cleaner around it for arms and — voila, it’s a new character she names Forky (Tony Hale). And just as Pawny (an alien pawn from a chess game) stole the movie in Men in Black: International, hearing Forky constantly call himself “Trash” as he always goes running for a trashcan, is rather funny.

Since the ‘first day’ of school was merely orientation, the family decides on a road trip in the RV for the week before school starts. Forky continues to try and take a dive into any nearest trash receptacle, and Woody tries to keep him in check. This ends up with them having an adventure in a carnival, where we get to meet toys that are stuck never going to kids, because…who wins shooting games at the fair? The stuffed Ducky and Bunny voices are done hysterically by Jordan Peele (who is so much more fun than when he does comedy instead of horror films) and his former comedy partner Keegan Michael-Key. It made me wish the Key & Peele team would do another “sequel” to the underrated Keanu.

In this road trip, there are also some bizarre things that happen at the Second Chance antique store, where Woody thinks he spots Bo Beep. Instead, he gets captured by a cute baby doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks). She has the best of intentions, but goes about them rather villainously. You see, she yearns to have a kid that wants her again, but with her damaged voice box, she thinks that’s impossible. With her gang of ventriloquist dummies, she tries to capture Woody and have his voice “removed” and placed in her. Don’t worry, it never gets too scary for the kids. It’s fun though, because ever since I saw Anthony Hopkins play a murderous ventriloquist in Magic (Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith) in 1978, dummies’ faces have freaked me out.

There are strong female characters as well…Bo Peep is rather fearless in this, and she leads the charge when problems arise. And Gabby Gabby is given a rather interesting story arc regarding her motives.

There’s a few great bits with Buzz (Tim Allen), trying to listen to his inner voice. The other toys all have a few good lines here and there. You always crack up when you hear Wallace Shawn, Kristen Schaal, or Joan Cusack, and you’ll hear Mr. Potato Head (the late Don Rickles), since they use some of his old voice tracks.

There are a few new characters — Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki), and everyone’s new favorite — Duke Caboom. He reminded me of the Evel Knievel motorcycle toy I had as a kid. Caboom is “Canada’s greatest stuntman” and is voiced by Keanu Reeves. Of course, the crew finds out he’s more into posing with his bike than doing actual stunts. There’s a scene where he’s called upon to do a stunt, and the image they show on screen is laugh out loud funny. You’ll also chuckle listening to him complain about the commercials not being an accurate representation of what he can really do [Duke Caboom fun fact: the announcer voice in his commercial is done by the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea].

Speaking of images, Pixar always dazzles us with their animation, and it’s beautiful here. The opening scenes in the rain are mesmerizing.

First time director Josh Cooley (who worked on the brilliant Inside Out) and screenwriters Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton (who has worked on the previous three movies), do a good job wrapping things up for these toys (I know, we thought it was all wrapped up after the 3rd movie). You’ll even shed a few tears.

I was a bit underwhelmed by the new Randy Newman songs (and I’m a huge Newman fan). Those songs are “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” and “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” (with Chris Stapleton).

As we were leaving, I heard a kid talking about all the easter eggs in the background of the movie. I have to admit, I wasn’t looking for them.

Even though this movie is easily the weakest of the four, it’s a fun time for the entire family.

3 stars out of 5.

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