By Chic DiCiccio
All of the “Toy Story” movies touch on themes that kids and adults both understand. There’s the fear of abandonment, uncertainty and finding your purpose for being. It’s all pretty deep stuff. Of course, the brilliance is that it’s done in a hilarious fashion and every moment earns the emotionalism that is created.
So, what’s left to tell after “Toy Story 3” seemed to tie this perfect trilogy together? How about existentialism? That philosophical theory is the driving force of “Toy Story 4” and it’s dealt with to perfection.
“Toy Story 4” picks up two years after the last one left off, and Andy’s toys are comfortably living with Bonnie’s toys. Even after being told to not tag along by Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), Woody (Tom Hanks) sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack to make sure she has a good first day of school. Her awkward day gets even more awkward when she creates a toy out of some trash that she names Forky (Tony Hale).
Naturally, Forky comes to life and begins talking. He doesn’t understand why he’s a toy when he knows his purpose is, well, as a one-time use plastic utensil. Woody’s purpose is to make sure Bonnie is happy, so he goes to great (and hysterical) lengths to keep Forky safe.
“Toy Story 4” becomes an adventure when Bonnie takes all of her toys on her family’s RV road trip. The question of being and friendship is explored through Buzz Lightyear’s (Tim Allen) commitment to being at Woody’s side; Forky’s enlightenment; and Bo Peep’s (Annie Potts, curiously absent from the third entry) newfound freedom.
It all sounds pretty serious, but “Toy Story 4” is loaded with belly laughs. Allen provides most of them with a deadpan delivery from a toy that still fancies himself a superhero.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele show up as Ducky and Bunny, two stuffed animals that have spent their lives tied to the wall of a carnival game, and every word they say is a riot.
But this is the Summer of Keanu Reeves. Once Reeves’ Duke Caboom appears, “Toy Story 4” is officially stolen. His confidence has been shattered, since his motorcycle toy cannot perform the stunts that his commercial showed he could do. Duke’s shallow vanity is an absolute scream.
Hanks is the perfect center for “Toy Story 4” and his voice seemingly tells whether you should laugh or cry. After “Forrest Gump,” this may be his most well-known role. It’s been 19 years since he was nominated for an Oscar … it’s a long shot, but he’s due.
At a lean 100 minutes, “Toy Story 4” flies by, particularly the second half that is loaded with fun action and breathtaking animation. Pixar animators manage to make everything look lifelike while still obviously being a cartoon. These amazing folks need to clear more mantle space for awards.
The last 15 minutes of “Toy Story 4” will require a hankie. You will need extreme ab strength or a dead, cold heart to not sob uncontrollably. After nearly 25 years, this is the ending that these characters deserve and makes it even tougher to accept the fact that we are letting them all go.
Also, “Toy Story 4” is dedicated to the late Don Rickles, who, via stock audio, is wonderful to hear for the last time as Mr. Potato Head. RIP, you hockey puck.