Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) shows Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) the ropes in “Toy Story 4.” (Disney / Pixar)

Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) shows Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) the ropes in “Toy Story 4.” (Disney / Pixar)

Four big stars for comic, poignant and wonderful ‘Toy Story 4’

The animated franchise that can do no wrong returns with another thoroughly lovable adventure.

When “Toy Story 3” came out in 2010, that was that. You can’t do a trilogy better than what Pixar had achieved in its signature series — including a few goosebump-raising sequences in Part 3 that were unlike anything in cartoon history — so why continue the story?

Well, you know how things go. But whatever the motivations for “Toy Story 4” were (I’ve heard a rumor that parent company Disney is interested in making profits), the new film is wonderful.

It’s also very Woody-centric. Our favorite ragdoll cowboy, once again voiced by Tom Hanks, is undergoing one of his periodic identity crises. The toys’ new owner, a little girl named Bonnie, favors other playthings, even bestowing Woody’s sheriff badge on cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack).

A family roadtrip leads to Woody’s exploration of — and eventual imprisonment in — a small-town antique store, where a vintage talking doll (Christina Hendricks) covets Woody’s voicebox. She commands a retinue of eerily silent ventriloquist dummies; I will try to ignore them here, because I would prefer not having nightmares tonight.

As Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang search for Woody, an old friend returns: Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who now lives without an owner. Where Woody has always feared being tossed aside, Bo Peep has been liberated by her freedom. It really makes a toy think.

These escapades are adventurous and touching, but “Toy Story 4” has its secret weapon in a new character called Forky (Tony Hale). Created by lonely Bonnie during a classroom art project, Forky is a disposable plastic spork with googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms.

He’s not much to look at, but a toy is a toy if a kid says so. And Woody takes this lovably misshapen object and exudes maximum parental concern over him.

If a review of a “Toy Story” movie inevitably starts to sound like a collection of serious psychological profiles, it’s because these films are so dense and observant. Even the little throwaway bits — like the introduction of a group of soldier toys called the Combat Carls (Carl Weathers), one of whom can’t get in gear with the others — have their soulful moments.

The old characters are in place, and so is Randy Newman’s music (his instrumental score is especially good this time). The only credit for John Lasseter, the man who built Pixar — and was sacked in 2018 over allegations of inappropriate behavior — is for the original story.

Newcomers include a pair of stuffed animals at a carnival (Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key), plus the Evel Knievel-like doll, Duke Caboom, a proudly Canadian stuntman. I’m not being facetious when I say that in the latter role, Keanu Reeves gives his greatest performance.

Director Josh Cooley, one of the “Inside Out” writers, keeps the humor well-timed, and the animation itself is astounding, far beyond what was possible in the original 1995 “Toy Story.” Admittedly, some ideas are recycled from previous chapters, a hazard if you’re making Part 4 of anything.

Despite a little deja vu, by the time “Toy Story 4” reaches its final stages, something haunting slips into the mix. The film’s themes of moving on and letting go become unexpectedly poignant, with real weight behind them. But then this is the world of “Toy Story,” so we should have expected it.

“Toy Story 4” (4 stars)

Maybe a fourth film wasn’t necessary, but it turns out to be wonderful anyway. This one is Woody-centric, with the cowboy ragdoll (voiced by Tom Hanks) off on an adventure with lovable new character Forky (Tony Hale). As usual with this series, the balance of comedy and unexpectedly poignant drama is uncanny.

Rating: G

Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Edmonds Theater, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-in, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

More in Life

The mask of an employee who returned to the office during the normalization period after corona virus quarantine, stands in front of the keyboard. Top view. Turkey.
What seniors can expect as new normal in a post-vaccine world

Here’s a preview of post-vaccine life for older Americans, from medical care to grocery shopping.

The trick to 1892 East’s crispy French toast is a combination of cornflakes and buttery palmiers, which add great crunch and rich flavor. (Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Is your bread stale? Don’t throw it away; make this treat

Cornflake French toast might seem a bit of a gimmick, but the added crunch is a marvel.

The Washington State Wine Commission is using August, known for decades as Washington Wine Month, to promote the Drink For WA campaign. The commission estimates it will generate 12 million impressions through advertising and social media channels. (Photo courtesy Washington State Wine Commission)
Washington wine commission rolls out Drink for WA campaign

Share an image of your special occasion along with tags of #DrinkForWA and #EatForWA.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Fried green tomatoes stand in fro fresh red tomatoes in this BLT sandwich. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Make a fried green tomato BLT when you can’t wait for ripe

Firmer than red tomatoes, with a zingy, slightly sour taste, unripe tomatoes hold their shape.

Talking to stuffed animals and other lessons of COVID-19

Teddy bears are a source of comfort and can be a sounding board for something we are trying to express.

AI-enhanced EKGS may speed heart failure diagnosis, treatment

The devices aid in screening for cardiac dysfunction in people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Thai Chicken Kabobs with Noodles. (Linda Gassenheimer/TNS)
This super-easy Thai-inspired dish has a slightly spicy edge

Peanut sauce flavors these Thai chicken kabobs with noodles.

Frozen blueberries team up with banana and yogurt to make a refreshing summer smoothie. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Make the most of your fresh-picked blueberries this summer

They can play a starring role in so many recipes, and we’re not just talking dessert- and breakfast-type dishes.

Most Read