Toy Story 4

The meaning of life. As a toy.

It’s quite amazing, really. To reach a third sequel after 24 years and have it every bit as entertaining, engrossing and emotionally resonant as the original film. And the second and the third. Especially hard when your parent company is Di$ney. Gives you hope.

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As the plague of accounting-office-mandated retreads continues to pour regurgitated drivel into the multiplexes, Pixar holds it together. The studio understands that a sequel must be more than an update; it has to have evolvedPlot centers around a new toy Woody’s new kid made out of picnic utensils and colored pipe cleaners, named “Forky,” whom he has to keep safe as the family embarks on an RV vacation.

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Tom Hanks and Tim Allen reprise their voice work as Woody and Buzz, and Annie Potts is back voicing the long-lost Bo Peep, here a liberated, subliminally empowering female role model.

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Funny (loved the “inner voice” running gag), adventurous, full of surprises and even profound, this little gem balances familiarity with novelty and mixes rousing reunions with bittersweet partings. The characters are comfortably old (the whole toybox) or frighteningly new (a quartet of highly creepy ventriloquist dummies/minions), and it’s clear the writers strove to find humanity in all of them. Ingeniously interwoven subplots, on a variety of levels, take this delightful film way past the trite “for children of all ages.”

All in all, a beautiful way to wrap up filmdom’s favorite franchise. For now. (100 min)