Children don’t appreciate kids’ movies.
Good writing, top notch animation, quality vocal talent to bring characters to life, these things are unimportant to a child.
They just want to be entertained.
“Toy Story 4,” the latest feature from Disney-owned Pixar Studios, may not be the most entertaining movie.
It’s one heck of a piece of cinema though.
After Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the toys from Andy’s room finally settle in with new owner Bonnie, their new adventure sees the gang off to infinity and beyond on a RV trip with Bonnie and her hand-made toy, Forky.
Who voices characters plays a key role to the success of any animated film and the “Toy Story” franchise has been impeccable in this regard since the beginning.
However, with this fourth film, viewers finally get to understand why casting a generational talent and two-time Oscar winner like Tom Hanks as Woody the cowboy elevates an entire project to the next level.
Hanks has always been the best thing about “Toy Story” films and his vocal performance this go-round is breathtakingly masterful.
The screenplay leans heavily on Woody’s emotional changes and character development as an impetus to introduce a strange new toy to the world. Hanks brings instant credibility and earnestness to the role of caretaker and his vibrant inflections both animate the dialogue for children and inform older viewers about his changing emotional state.
For a franchise to be revisited so quickly after concluding a fitting end to a trilogy requires exceptional, undeniable reasoning.
“Toy Story 4” has to exist just to ensure Hanks’ excellence fulfilling Woody’s legacy sees the light of day.
Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear has to take a relative backseat to Hanks’ Woody as part of the narrative, but the film does offer Allen a significant secondary storyline about inner voice that resonates well for both Buzz and Woody.
With “Toy Story 4” focused on Woody, many of the other memorable returning characters take a back seat here, ceding room for new voice talent to deliver impactful performances without overwhelming the main journey.
Keanu Reeves is an absolute scene-stealer playing up to his surfer-bro stereotype with a hilarious turn as Canadian motorcycle daredevil toy Duke Caboom. Likewise, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele bring their improvisational comedy to life with some genuine laughs as a pair of plush animals stuck together by fabric.
The real winner among newcomers, however, is Tony Hale’s terrific work with a part that could have gone disastrously wrong: Forky, a handmade toy crafted by Bonnie from a spork.
Forky looks strange and out of place, made from thrown out parts with an existential crisis to return to the trash.
In the wrong hands, Forky could have been so grating that the entire film gets knocked off balance. But Hale gradually gives a warmth to Forky as he bonds with Hanks’ Woody that his strangeness becomes endearing to the audience.
“Toy Story” movies have felt on the cutting edge visually when they arrived in theaters and the newest iteration is intricately detailed, nearly lifelike.
The Pixar animators do such a fantastic job of bringing the world to life that audiences almost take what they’re seeing before them for granted as the exceptional becomes naturally ordinary in short order.
Each scene is intricately detailed and worthy of stopping frame by frame to examine the rich background Pixar animators create, especially in an antique store that features more Easter eggs than any viewer will be able to spot in a dozen viewings.
A shoo-in nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, “Toy Story 4” might be the favorite when all is said and done after the third installment won the same award in 2011. The first two “Toy Story” films were made prior to the addition of a Best Animated Feature category in 2002 although the original was given a Special Achievement Academy Award in 1996.
Kids will watch “Toy Story 4” with wide eyes enjoying the whole ride and not fully understanding how good what they’re seeing actually is.
For adults with (or without) children, Pixar hits another home run with a film that’s worth seeing in theaters for the visual quality and Hanks’ performancealone.