MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Toy Story 4’ proves there’s plenty of life left in the old toy closet


What is the remedy for a mediocre summer at the movies?

“Toy Story 4!”

Yes, it’s Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Bo Peep (Annie Potts), and all their Pixar pals whom we thought would be tucked away forever after 2010’s “Toy Story 3 to the rescue.

The third film completed what was a nearly perfect trilogy with an emotional and heart-warming ending. The story seemed done.

However, first-time director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Stephany Folsom and Andrew Staton, who co-wrote all four films in the series, proved there is still life in the toy closet of young Bonnie, who took over ownership of our characters from grown-up Andy in the last film.

“Toy Story 4” is a total delight that had children and adults laughing and maybe even shedding a few tears in this gorgeously rendered computer-animated tale that is so lovingly familiar yet dynamically new with the introduction of a half dozen new characters, voiced by the likes of Keegan-Micheal Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, and Ally Maki.

The setup for the toys’ latest adventure is a late-summer RV trip by Bonnie and her family before the little girl begins kindergarten. During her orientation to school, Bonnie — with a little help from Woody who stowed away in her backpack — creates a new toy, Forky (Hale), out of spork, some clay, a popsicle stick, some pipe cleaner, and mismatched google eyes.

Forky is a bit of a fraidy-cat Frankenstein who hilariously longs to return from the trash whence he came, but Woody won’t let him because Bonnie tagged the creature’s feet with her name just like she did Woody’s.

When Woody forthrightly pronounces Forky as the most-important toy to Bonnie at this time, he lets the other toys know his willing to protect the little guy at all costs.

That determination has Woody leap out of the RV after Forky, and our adventure kicks into high gear. Woody and Forky’s quest to reunite with Bonnie and the other toys takes them to a carnival park where they meet a group of hilarious lost toys and to a creepy antique shop that’s filled with freaky foes.

Key and Peele draw big laughs as Ducky and Bunny, two overly dramatic stuffed toys, who like to play rough, and Reeves is the motor-cycle riding, scene-stealing Canadian action figure Nuke Kaboom. With all the laughs it’s difficult to catch all the jokes delivered by this trio.

Hendricks plays the creepy Gabby Gabby, the toy who runs roughshod over the antique store with the help of her gang of ventriloquist dummies for muscle.

As with all the Toy Story films, Randy Newman supplies the music, putting a big bright bow on the package.

Like with all the Toy Story movies, the film is a funny adventure, but it’s also layered with underlying allegorical meaning for adults, who can draw out the themes they would like. The plot and jokes are meaty, yet still soothing, delivered kindly by old and new friends alike.

In terms of quality, it’s hard for me to say exactly where this fourth trip with Woody and Buzz fits with the other movies. All of three are excellent in my estimation, and the latest effort is on par with them if not even better.

“Toy Story 4” is like another trip to a favorite restaurant where the company, ambience, service, and food are just about perfect.

There’s just not much more that you can want. It’s just a pleasure to watch.

Grade: A
(G) 1 hr. 40 min.

Classic Corner: Dog Day Afternoon

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon / Warner Bros.

There were robbery and hostage films before “Dog Day Afternoon,” and many have been made since the Sidney Lummet-directed crime drama debuted in 1975, but it’s hard to find a better one.

Based on an actual 1972 crime, written about about by P.F. Kluge in a LIFE magazine article, the film remains a strong piece of film-making that captures the turbulence of the early 1970s with a naturalistic but tragic tone.

The movie features a tour de force performance by Al Pacino as first-time crook Sonny, who attempts to rob a bank with partners Sal (John Cazale) and Stevie (Gary Springer), but the heist goes awry when Stevie loses his nerve and runs away, and when Sonny learns that the bank’s cash has already been picked up for the day and there is only around $1,000 on hand. When the police surround the building, Sonny and Sal, who has just been released from prison, take the bank employees hostage.

If the plot seems familiar, it’s because it was so groundbreaking in its day. The movie has influenced and informed so many other crime films and TV episodes since, but what made the movie special at its debut and continues to make it worth watching today is Pacino’s powerful performance that turns the idea of the anti-hero on top of its head.

Who are the good guys in the movie? Is it the cops or the robbers?

The camaraderie between Sonny and Sal, and even their chemistry with the hostages makes it difficult not to root for the “bad guys” up to the film’s brutal end.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, and one an Oscar for Best Writing, which went to Frank Pierson for his adaption of the article. Pacino received a Best Actor nomination for the movie as well as for his work in the “The Godfather Part II” in 1975.

The film is showing on Turner Classic Movies at 7 p.m. (CT) Saturday.

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Toy Story 4(G) 1 hr. 40 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight

  • Child’s Play(R) 1 hr. 30 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills

  • Anna(R) 1 hr. 59 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills

  • The Dead Don’t Die(R) 1 hr. 45 min. (trailer)
  • Playing at: Malco Razorback