This unnecessary franchise extension isn’t as emotionally soaring as the previous films. And yet, to its credit, Toy Story 4 is self-critical: Even Woody doesn’t know what he’s still doing here. Bonnie has new interests. She removes Woody’s sheriff badge and gives it to Jessie (Joan Cusack), a promotion that disappointingly backgrounds the Toy Story 2 heroine into seventh-banana status. And Bonnie glues googly eyes to a white spork, naming the resulting trash monster Forky. Soon, Forky is stumble-walking on Popsicle legs and tremble-talking with Tony Hale’s freaky poignant voice.
Forky’s a delightful new addition. He gets lost, though, in the shuffle of a very manic adventure. Woody and Forky find themselves in an antique store dominated by Gabby Gabby, a smiling terror cherub voiced with anxious good cheer by Christina Hendricks. Gabby feels like a whole movie unto herself, but the crammed story has the X-Men movie problem, mish-mashing too-fast check-ins with longtime characters and hastily sketched new additions. Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, and Keegan-Michael Key also join the crowded ensemble. The primary setting is a carnival, a cheap shortcut to visual gags from a franchise that used to twist regular locations (a suitcase conveyor, a daycare facility) into roller coasters.
And then there’s Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who returns as an actionized staff-swinging warrior. Her story gets folded into Woody’s emotional