Toy Story 4 ★★★★

To talk about “Toy Story 4” is to talk about Forky. This is a movie that doesn’t initially appear to have any compelling reason to exist — the forced but satisfying third installment of Pixar’s signature franchise seemed to wrap things up when it came out almost a full decade ago — and yet Forky alone is enough to elevate this potential cash-grab into the beautiful and hilarious coda that its long-running series needed to be truly complete. Forky is the hero we need in 2019.

Forget Andy, forget Woody, and definitely forget that lame Buzz Lightyear (the writers of “Toy Story 4” already have), Forky is the god’s honest truth. He’s everything these films have been working towards. After 25 years, several billion dollars, and the rise of a cartoon empire that has become synonymous with top-drawer family entertainment, the beating heart of the “Toy Story” saga is best expressed by a plastic spork with mismatched googly eyes, a red pipe cleaner for arms, and an existential crisis that causes him to snap even though he technically can’t even bend.

See, the thing about Forky (voiced by Tony Hale, doing a lobotomized Buster Bluth) is that he was never meant to be a toy; he’s just an art project that a young girl named Bonnie frankensteins together in kindergarten one day. But something magical happens when she writes her name along the bottom of the wooden popsicle sticks that Forky uses as his stupid little feet: He comes to life. He’s endowed with a soul. Bonnie’s affection for this misbegotten thing is all it takes to transform an inanimate object into a character with a name and a home and a place to belong.

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