Kudos to Pixar for making yet another film that satisfies on so many levels with “Toy Story 4.” While all the films in the franchise have had something to teach kids, the fourth installment, along with all the fun and adventure, comes with a theme that will thrill any parent who wants to teach their children right from wrong.
I never thought I would hear a film character talk about conscience. “What is conscience?” your child may ask you at some point. Well, Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) asks Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) the same thing and Woody explains about each person’s “inner voice” that helps them know what’s right and what’s wrong. Woody finds out that his own inner voice can also inspire him to follow his own heart.
The film opens with a delightful flashback scene just in case any audience members don’t recall why Woody, Buzz and gang are now in Bonnie’s (voice of Madeleine McGraw) room instead of Andy’s. We find Woody contemplating his own purpose as a toy when he’s consistently left in Bonnie’s closet while she plays with other toys. Things are looking up, though, at least in Woody’s mind, when Bonnie has to attend an orientation day for kindergarten.
She’s terrified of school but not allowed to take any toys. Thinking Bonnie will need a friendly face later on, Woody sneaks into her backpack. It’s a good thing, too, because when a kid takes all the craft supplies off the table where she’s working, Woody digs through the trash and supplies her with a plastic spork and a few other items.
Enter Forky (voice of Tony Hale), the friend she literally makes out of her slim pickings. Becoming Bonnie’s new favorite toy, he still thinks he’s trash and Woody, just wanting to make sure his kid is happy, does all he can to keep the plastic creation out of the rubbish bin and safe for Bonnie.
Bonnie (voice of Madeleine McGraw) with Forky (voice of Tony Hale) in "Toy Story 4" (Disney/Pixar)
When the family takes a late summer RV trip, Forky manages to evade Woody’s vigilance. Following him into a small town’s antique shop, Woody encounters Gabby Gabby (voice of Christina Hendricks), a Chatty Cathy type doll from the 1950’s who was born with a defective voice box. She rules over the toy in the shop with the help of her super-creepy ventriloquist doll henchmen. What she really wants is Woody’s perfectly working voice box.
In the ensuing adventures, Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts), who now counts herself among the “lost toys,” those with no kid. Her mission is to keep toys safe from Gabby Gabby. Among her friends are Duke Caboom (voice of Keanu Reeves) and Giggle McDimples (voice of Ally Maki). Two carnival prize plush toys, Ducky (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (voice of Jordan Peele) round out the crew trying to save Forky.
Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) and Duke Caboom (voice of Keanu Reeves) in "Toy Story 4" (Disney/Pixar)
The rest of Andy’s old toys, including Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and Hamm (voice of John Ratzenberger), get relegated to the peripheries of the film.
“Toy Story 4” boasts plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for both kids and adults, compliments of the wonderful comedic timing of Key and Peele, but most especially from a stellar performance by Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom, a Canadian daredevil toy tossed aside because his abilities didn’t match up with what his kid witnessed in the television commercial. As usual, Tom Hanks lends his everyman voice to Woody, the loyal cowboy, confident of his purpose to bring happiness to his kid.
Who would have know that a plastic spork could spark such an inspiring and entertaining escapade for the whole family?