"You've got a friend in me"… since 1995 those words have been synonymous with the Disney animated movie Toy Story and Woody (Tom Hanks; Cast Away) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen; Home Improvement). Over the next fifteen years, we were treated to two more films in the franchise that followed the adventures of Andy's toys as they helped him navigate the world around him. In 2010 we thought we had seen the last of them when Andy gave his beloved toys away to a little girl named Bonnie before heading off to college. Fortunately, Disney Studios had other ideas and this summer Toy Story 4 makes its way to movie theaters nationwide.
It's breakfast time in Bonnie's house and all the toys have been shoved in a closet by mom where they await Bonnie's return. As she comes back she picks her toys but leaves Woody in the closet. She then finds out she is going to kindergarten and Woody decides to hide away in her backpack to makes sure things go smoothly. Upon returning home, Woody introduces everyone to the new toy Bonnie made - Forky (Tony Hale; Veep). Forky, however, was made from trash and wants to return there so Woody spends all his time keeping a close eye on Forky.
When Forky suddenly jumps from the window of the RV, Woody follows suit to try and find him and bring him back to Bonnie, On their way through they come across an antique shop where Woody sees Bo Peeps (Annie Potts; Designing Women) lamp and goes into the store in search her. He eventually finds her but not in the shop and learns that there is a whole world outside of a child's bedroom to explore. In the end, Woody must decide (once again) between his child and Bo Peep.
Part of what makes these stories so enjoyable is that these characters are warm, loving and inviting and the actors who voice them exude those emotions. Hanks is synonymous with Woody and Allen masterfully navigates the range of sounds and ideas of a galactic traveler. They are joined by Keanu Reeves (the John Wick series) as Duke Caboom, a daredevil motorcycle riding toy and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) as Gabby Gabby, one of the sister vintage dolls in the antique shop. They bring a new dynamic to the series that fans will embrace. The rest of the cast includes some old favorites who once again reprise their lovable and hilarious roles.
Of course, Disney brings their "A" game once again where the animation is concerned. The characters are so well "drawn" (via computer these days) that details are so intricate and sharp. There are a plethora of colors that pop off the screen at every turn to entice younger audiences and grab their attention. Randy Newman (The Princess and the Frog) once again lends his musical talents to the score giving us a new yet somewhat familiar soundtrack and the addition of these new characters combined with the familiar ones from the past make watching the film a seamless combination.
While I couldn't imagine how Disney could create another story behind these toys after the third film ended, they managed to do it beautifully. They managed to breathe new life into this franchise that seemed to have wrapped up already and found a way to once again give a cohesive tale that again finishes Woody's saga as a childhood toy. Of course, they also brought a tear to this critic's eye but did so in a loving and beautiful. I feel they (finally) put this story to rest in a complete way (though I thought that after Toy Story 3) and I hope they don't make another movie in this series just for money sake.