My favorite moments in the adorable new Toy Story 4 were the countless times when the children in the audience — and I shared the theatre with scores of them that Sunday afternoon — broke out into infectious laughter. I couldn’t tell you what was going on during those times onscreen, and I’m not sure it matters. This latest franchise strikes all of the right notes with the little ones.
That’s not to say that this…ahem, bigger one…didn’t enjoy this latest in the franchise. I did. But by the time Toy Story, or any movie series, actually, gets to “4,” it’s hard to “wow” me. Toy Story 4 is no exception.
The movie’s premise? I’d say “Can the lost be found?” All of us, if we reach far enough back, can recall losing a favorite toy, even if it’s the keys to the convertible or a preferred coffee mug. Toy Story 4 is packed with lost toys, from old friend Bo Peep, to one of the film’s hysterical new characters, Forky. Even our stalwart pal Woody finds himself lost, looking back in the rear view mirror at a day when he was the favorite toy in the box.
Just as all of its predecessors in the franchise have done, Toy Story 4 does an excellent job of introducing new characters. I mentioned Forky, a messed-up, mirthful mix of a spork, a pipe cleaner, a popsicle stick, and a well-placed dab of Play Doh.
I want one!
Also, comedians Key & Peele voice a pair of plucky plush playthings who won’t soon be forgotten. They’re the center of several “what if” segments that prompted laughs from children of all ages. And you’ve got to meet Duke Caboom, this movie’s version of that Evil Knievel action figure that I wore out when I was a kid.
Toy Story 4’s only problem? We’ve seen it all before.
When the original debuted almost a quarter of a century ago, computer-generated animation was in its infancy, and we were wow’d by the movie’s multiple eye-popping moments. No so this time around.
No Toy Story film wouldn’t be complete without a yanked heartstring or two. Stash a spare hankie in your pocket before seeing this one. For a franchise with such poignant prior chapters, Toy Story 4 had its work cut out for it. The result is very good…but not great.
Even the movie’s soundtrack is showing its age. It features the favorite from the original, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” by the peerless Randy Newman. It also features a couple of great, new Newman tunes, including “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away.” As rousing as that tune is, Newman’s voice is sounding even more haggard than usual, which is to be expected after almost 25 years. But when you hear it just after “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” the wrinkles, as it were, show.
As much as I hate to admit it, it may be time to close the lid on Pixar’s ol’ cinematic toy chest. But before we do, get a ticket in the back row and watch Toy Story 4, and take in the laughs from the kids in the audience, like I did that Sunday afternoon. That experience will help you get back in touch with another lost kid, who’s probably also, like me, spent more than his fair share of time looking for misplaced car keys.
Toy Story 4 is in theaters everywhere.