Multi-layered ‘Toy Story 4’ might just be the best one yet

Tony Hale and Tom Hanks provide the voices for Forky and Woody, seen here in a scene from “Toy Story 4.” ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 

From the first time we heard “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” 25 years ago, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang have held a special place in the hearts of basically the whole world.

After watching their adventures with Andy, accepting new toys, accepting Andy growing up, we watched in Toy Story 3 as the toys went off to be with Bonnie – their new kid — to live a second life.

Toy Story 4 picks up basically where we left off with Bonnie, though there’s been a shift. Woody is no longer picked to be played with every day. Even worse, she’s taking his Sheriff badge and pinning it to the shirt of Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) every morning.

Poor old Woody worries his time has come. But when Bonnie starts pre-school in a mess of anxieties and fears, Woody sees an opportunity to become useful again. After secretly tagging along to her first day he introduces the gang to Bonnie’s new friend, Forky (Tony Hale). He’s a spork-turned-toy with a couple of googly eyes, pipe cleaner arms and Popsicle feet.

Forky knows he’s trash — not metaphorical trash but literal trash —and tries to get back where he belongs and out of the grasp of a little girl loves him. Woody has a new mission – keep Forky alive.

When a road trip provides the perfect opportunity for an escape, Woody goes after Forky and runs into an old friend along the way – none other than his former love Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who has been living as a free toy for eight long years.

They pair up to rescue Forky from an antiques store where he’s being held hostage by a mean doll named Gabi Gabi (Christina Hendricks) and her posse of thugs (four ventriloquist dummies that will haunt your dreams).

Toy Story 4 tells multiple stories simultaneously – a light, basic plot for the kids, layered with a deep, complex and in this case existential plot filled with brilliant jokes that fly over young heads.

It’s no easy feat and this fourth film might be the best effort yet.

Tom Hanks pulls at every heartstring, worried that in an age of tech an old doll has little to offer. Tim Allen continues to give heart to clueless Buzz in a way that highlights his narcissism while making you root for his growth. Annie Potts returns (Bo Peep wasn’t part of Toy Story 3) with all the sass and gumption necessary for a strong female character in 2019, and Tony Hale makes you laugh by simply repeating the word trash.

The Toy Story franchise remains the gold standard for animated children’s movies – and this latest offering in the series doesn’t disappoint.

But be prepared, the ending will sneak up on you. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when I screened it. The ending is either a beautiful love letter to a franchise that’s touched millions or the beginning of a new path. Only time will tell.

Either way, fans will be delighted.

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia