Adventure Animation

Review: ‘Toy Story 4’ Proves that Playtime isn’t Over for the Franchise

June 20, 2019Ben MK

As hard as it might be to fathom, it's been 25 years since moviegoers were first introduced to a cowboy named Woody and a Space Ranger named Buzz Lightyear. And while these characters have remained just as endearing as they were a quarter of a century ago, it's safe to say that animated films have never been the same since.

Now everyone's favorite toy-tastic duo is back for Toy Story 4, the sixth installment in the franchise (if you're counting Toy Story of Terror and Toy Story That Time Forgot). This time, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and their pals are accompanying their kindergarten-bound owner Bonnie and her parents on summer vacation. But when Bonnie brings along a reluctant new toy named Forky (Tony Hale) — which she's crafted out of little more than a disposable plastic spork, a pipe cleaner and a popsicle stick — the gang quickly discover that this vacation will be anything but relaxing.

Luckily, they'll have a little help from a few new friends. Joining the voice cast are Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a pair of plush toys with attitude named Ducky and Bunny, as well as Keanu Reeves as the daring Duke Caboom, a not-quite-as-advertised stuntman toy who hails from the Great White North. Throw in familiar names like Jessie (Joan Cusack), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Rex (Wallace Shawn), and this movie is about as stuffed to the brim with lovable characters as any Toy Story entry that has come before it.

Speaking of which, director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom have done an excellent job maintaining the look and feel of the franchise's earlier entries, while also giving characters like Bo Peep (Annie Potts) — who steps up to the role of kick-ass heroine — a satisfying arc. Even the film's villain, an antique talking doll with a broken voice box named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), proves to be more than meets the eye, thanks to the actors' abilities to strike just the right balance between humor and emotion.

Whether you're 5-years-old or 50, it all adds up to one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer. For while it's easy to invoke the law of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels, it's reassuring to see that there are still some franchises that not only stand the test of time, but get better with age.

Toy Story 4 releases June 20th, 2019 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of G. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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