‘Toy Story 4’ Review: Another Home Run


There are two types of movie genres I avoid at all cost. The first is fantasy. I hate fantasy movies. Oh, I love sci-fi and magical realism (Amelie, Groundhog Day, Local Hero, Cinema Paradiso) and stuff like that, but as soon as lightning pops out of the finger of someone wearing a pointy hat, see ya.

The other is animation. Don’t get me wrong. Life doesn’t get any better than those old Warner Bros. shorts with Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Roadrunner, and Coyote. But once we’re talking about a feature-length cartoon, you can count me out. Even as a kid.

Like most people my age, I had terrific parents who took me to see all those re-released Disney classics: Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Snow White…  They never won me over. While everyone in the theater cried over the death of Bambi’s mother, I sat there wondering why she didn’t tie the hunter’s gun in a knot.

There aren’t many exceptions. A handful. The Wizard of Oz , Ladyhawke, and Beastmaster are terrific fantasy movies. But if forced to watch another Harry Potter movie, I’d try to slit my own throat on the way.

Same with animation. For some reason I love The Lion King, but other than that, nope… No way. And don’t even try to sell me on anime. To answer your question — no, I’ve never tried it. I’ve also never tried eating a three-day dead rat while watching gay porn in shark-infested waters wearing a meat suit.

Pixar, though…

Pixar is a thing all its own…

There is something about Pixar…

The Incredibles (2004), Monster’s Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), and most especially Up (2009). Between 1995 and 2010, Pixar could do no wrong. A lot has gone wrong since. But that run was pure magic. And of course it all started 24-years-ago (if you can believe that) with Toy Story.

What a brilliant concept. Did you know that when no one is watching, your toys come to life and go on adventures? Did you know that the emotional life of your toy revolves only around you and your happiness and contentment?

The whole idea is genius and enchanting and beguiling, and through three sequels, Pixar has yet to drop the ball, which cannot be said for its many other franchises. In fact, how many franchises — any franchise — have produced four legitimate masterpieces in a row? Off the top of my head, I can think of exactly none.

Toy Story 4 does a bit of a retcon with the character of Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who was not part of Toy Story 3. In an opening flashback, we learn that she was given away and that Woody (Tom Hanks) almost ran away with her.

The action then moves to the present day. The toys now live with a kindergartner named Bonnie, who doesn’t have much use for Woody. She is a girl after all, and what does a normal girl need with a toy sheriff?

Woody needs to be needed, though, and this leads to him sneaking along on Bonnie’s first day of kindergarten, where she makes her own toy out of a spork. She names him Forky (Tony Hale) and adores him, but Forky believes he is garbage and keeps trying to throw himself away. Woody is kept plenty busy trying to save Forky from himself, but the adventure doesn’t really begin until Bonnie’s parents take her on a road trip.

What we have here is another endlessly imaginative, entertaining, funny, heartfelt classic complete with dazzling animation (the opening sequence, which takes place at night in the rain, is a wowser) and perfect voice performances.

Randy Newman does another killer job with the score and a couple of new songs. Keanu Reeves practically steals the movie as an Evel Knievel-type toy (Duke Caboom), and the last scene — man, what a heart-wrencher.

My Thursday night show was packed with small kids who were hypnotized for the full 100 minutes, as was I.

And don’t leave too soon. There’s more to come after the fade.

P.S. There has been some talk on the Inter-Web-Dot-Nets about Sporky representing a transsexual. No. No. No. There’s no identity issue of any kind, not even between fork and spoon. What’s more, he’s a he, and this is made clear in his closing scene. His is more of a Frankenstein story. If you want to read too much into Bo Peep leading some of the the action, you’re only going to ruin a good time for yourself.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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