By Dan Pavelich
The fourth installment of the “Toy Story” franchise has arrived, bringing with it all of our favorite Pixar toys come-to-life. This time around, Woody, Buzz and the gang are confronted with the fact that their latest owner, Bonnie, no longer wants to play with all of her old toys, relegating a few sad souls to the bedroom closet.
Woody, voiced by the always-likable Tom Hanks, pretends to take his demotion in stride, even though we can tell that he’s crushed. His heart sinks, and ours do, too, which is how we know that these characters and their lives on the silver screen have grown to mean so much to us.
During art time in kindergarten, Bonnie creates a new friend, Forky, wh0 is fashioned out of a spork, googley eyes and pipe cleaners. Her new creation becomes her most-cherished, leaving the remainder of her old favorites discarded.
Bonnie’s family decides to take a summer R.V. trip, during which, she discovers that Forky is missing. The toys suss out that Forky has made his way into a small-town antique shop, where he’s taken in by Gabby Gabby (voiced by Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks), a misfit toy from the 1950’s who is protected by a goon squad of ghoulish ventriloquist dummies.
While we have seen this rescue theme used in other “Toy Story” movies, this time around, the message of the importance of friendship feels like it’s morphed into a message about the importance of family. At times, though, the story arc flits through being a buddy pic, a road adventure, a drama and a physical comedy. This variety serves the story well and helps keep it interesting.
There is also an abundance of new characters, given voice by several classic Hollywood stars of yesteryear; Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, to name a few. This is a film the entire family can enjoy, from title to credits. Pass the popcorn.