Blake Kavan

Blake Kavan

After capturing our hearts, and for some of us, our childhood, in one of the greatest trilogies of all-time, a fourth installment is here at last in “Toy Story 4.”

Picking up where things left off in “Toy Story 3” — as the fabled Andy gave all of his toys to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) — Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and the rest of the gang are living their days happily entertaining Bonnie.

Things are far from perfect, though, especially for our favorite cowboy. Woody is quickly becoming an afterthought to Bonnie. Still, Woody is old-school. He knows he has a job to do: to entertain and protect his child at all times.

Against the advice of the rest of the crew, Woody is determined to accompany Bonnie on her first day of kindergarten to ensure nothing goes wrong. During arts and craft time, Bonnie creates a spontaneous spork, who against all odds, becomes her new favorite toy.

Forky (Tony Hale), the name of the eccentric spork, has a problem of his own. He’s used to being thrown away in the trash — not kept as a prized toy.

On a family road trip, Forky escapes the family RV, dead-set on finding the nearest trash bin and staying there forever. Woody, to protect Bonnie, of course, must round-up Forky and get him back to the distraught Bonnie.

After one thing leads to another, Woody and Forky find themselves in an antique shop surrounded by a mildly creepy doll named Gabby-Gabby (Christina Hendricks), and her extremely creepy henchmen. It turns out that Gabby-Gabby’s voicebox was defected since she was assembled, and wants nothing more than to take Woody’s.

Not only does Woody have to find a way to get Forky back to Bonnie, but he also has to escape the trenches of Gabby-Gabby and her henchmen. As always, Woody will need the help of his crew if he wants to pull out another miracle.

The greatest handicap of “Toy Story 4” is the four films that have come before it. On its own merit, “Toy Story 4” is a marvelous film, but the comparisons to the seemingly-flawless trilogy that came before it makes the film almost lackluster.

The missing ingredient in the film is its cast of characters. We all know and love Slinky, Rex, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head as if they are our own toys, but they are not featured in the film near enough. Buzz Lightyear has his moments of glory, of course, but the prominence, or lack thereof, for the rest of the crew is missed dearly.

Everyone who buys a ticket is fully prepared by now for the laughs, nostalgia and yes, for Pixar to pull your heart right out of your chest, but what you might not be prepared for is how deeply and eloquently the film drives home the message about a sense of purpose, belonging and finding yourself through life’s transitions and changes.

In the midst of a solid story, brilliant new characters (Forky and a Duke Caboom you’ll have to see to believe) and laughter and joy abound, there’s still plenty of life to be found in this toy bin.

While the film may have difficulty living up to its previous installments, make no mistake about it — you’ve still got a friend in “Toy Story 4.”

Grade: B+

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