Just when it looked like the “Toy Story” franchise had reached its conclusion, all the gang – and some new friends – return for a fourth go-around in “Toy Story 4.”
Arriving in theaters nine years after the previous film appeared to put a bow on the story arc of Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang, “Toy Story 4” manages to recapture the magic of its predecessors even if it lacks the emotional kick of those films.
“Toy Story 4” finds Woody and the gang adjusting to life with Bonnie. When the young girl starts school, she finds emotional support in a handmade toy named Forky (voiced by Tony Hale).
Determined to keep Bonnie happy, Woody does everything he can to keep Forky safe – but when the new toy takes off in the middle of a family vacation, Woody springs into action to find Forky. The journey proves to be more than just getting back Bonnie’s new toy, as Woody comes face to face with his past and begins to question his standing among Bonnie’s toys.
Fans of the “Toy Story” films will find plenty of reasons to enjoy the latest go-around – with all of the familiar faces getting their chance in the spotlight.
Forky is among some of the new faces added to the mix this time. You get a wonderful voice turn by Keanu Reeves as Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom (clearly a play off the old Evel Knievel actions figures) and Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, a toy in an antique shop that wants the life that Woody and the rest of his friends have.
Those additions provide enough spark to keep “Toy Story 4” in the right direction, along with a running joke involving Buzz Lightyear and his “inner voice” (an inspired bit that captures the essence of the “Toy Story” franchise quite well).
While all of this is fun to revisit, I’m still not sure if it was 100 percent necessary. Watching “Toy Story 4” was akin to watching a band on a reunion tour. It’s enjoyable in the moment, but it doesn’t have the same impact as watching the band at the height of its success.
“Toy Story 4” feels more like a checklist of why the franchise is so successful. It tries to be different – and tries to bring the raw emotion in the final act – but it truly lacks that heart and soul that made the previous films so special.
That doesn’t mean “Toy Story 4” isn’t worth your time. Compared to the other family offerings this summer, it is easily at the top of the pack. But when you compare it to the three films before it, this “Toy Story” isn’t quite as wonderful as you might expect or hope it would be.