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The Toys Are Back: A Review Of 'Toy Story 4'


So I was in China a few weeks ago in heavy traffic in Beijing, and on the car in front of mine, hanging off the back windshield as if trying to avoid falling were two action figures, characters from the movie series "Toy Story" - Buzz Lightyear and Woody, trying to save each other. This is a movie series that's had a global impact. And another "Toy Story" movie, "Toy Story 4," comes out today.


TOM HANKS: (As Woody) Jessie, Hamm, Buzz, Bo, Rex, Potato Heads.

DON RICKLES: (As Mr. Potato Head) Hey. Watch it, buddy.

ESTELLE HARRIS: (As Mrs. Potato Head) What do we do?

HANKS: (As Woody) Let's go save a spork.




INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan is here to talk about it.

Hi there, Ken.

TURAN: Hey, Steve. How you doing?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK. So let's go save a spork.

TURAN: Well, you know, "Toy Story" - they have to be inventive. They have to come up with new things. One of the many new characters in this one is a spork that has been used as part of an arts and crafts project. And they have to save it at one point in the film. That's just the way things are.

INSKEEP: So wait. It's a spoon and fork together - that kind of spork. That's what the...

TURAN: Yes, and it's actually a spork that's been thrown away, that's been rescued from the trash and turned into a toy. There's a lot of complications in this film. You know, Steve, the spork part of it is not even the best thing about it. Later in the film, Woody reunites with Bo Peep. And I can't say that too soon. I'm jumping the gun. I have to say it because it's such a wonderful event. And it leads to so much of interest in the film that I just have to get it out there.

INSKEEP: OK, so that was a bit of a spoiler. Sorry about that. But, of course, you still get to find out how it happens, so much, much suspense. Some people who know this series well will note that "Toy Story 3" ended with all the toys being given away, which sounded like the series was over, wasn't it?

TURAN: It did. And nobody expected a sequel. Everyone was happy. But they had this idea. You know, Pixar runs on ideas. There's some very creative people there. And, you know, saying that there's a new meeting with Bo Peep does not give anything away. This happens fairly early in the film, and it's how it plays out that's of interest. But that was always the core of the new idea. I read that its code name was Peep inside of Pixar. This was always going to be the heart of the film.

INSKEEP: Is this as bad as a lot of sequels are?

TURAN: No. I mean, this is really wonderful. I mean, everyone - we're all - I was - even as a critic, I was worried going in. You know, we all loved those first three films. Is it going to spoil them? Is it going to leave a bad taste in our mouth? No. I mean, they've managed somehow. It's almost a miracle they've pulled it off. I think people who love this franchise will be very happy.

INSKEEP: I wonder if one of the reasons that a grown-up, as you are...

TURAN: In theory, Steve.

INSKEEP: ...Would find this so appealing is that - are these movies - that even though they're - I mean, they're about toys. They wrestle with grown-up themes in a way.

TURAN: Oh, absolutely. You know, they're all about emotion. They're about what's important in life. These are stories that break your heart and not only once but multiple times. And it's kind of astonishing that computer-generated toys can do this to our minds and our emotions, but they can.

INSKEEP: Room for a "Toy Story 5"?

TURAN: You know, they won't do one unless it feels right. When you see this, you know why they did it. And if it doesn't feel right, they're not going to do any more.

INSKEEP: Well, when you hear a review by Ken Turan, you know why he did it.

Ken, thanks so much.

TURAN: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for us here on MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times.


RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) You've got a friend in me. You've got a friend... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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