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Film Review: Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 (2019)
Walt Disney Studios

Written by: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Josh Cooley, Valerie LaPointe, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Martin Hynes & Stephany Folsom
Directed by: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan & Joan Cusack

It’s been nine years since Woody, Buzz, Jessie and co. said goodbye to Andy as he passed on the gang to the adorable Bonnie in one of the most touching and fittingly perfect ends to a trilogy since Star Wars. When a fourth outing was announced by Disney back in 2014, many fans, including myself, asked the question; do we really need another addition to the critically-acclaimed animated franchise?

With a new director at the helm, Pixar has crafted a lovingly animated and enormously fun tale in Toy Story 4, a film that’s packed full of wonderful new additions with a tender emotional core. Although at times feeling like an extended short, the film is an absolute joy that will entertain both young and old alike, however it never quite reaches the heights of the first three outings.

We rejoin Woody (Tom Hanks) and the gang as they adjust to life with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) and her toys, lead by rag doll Dolly (Bonnie Hunt). Once Andy’s favourite, Woody is frequently being left in the cupboard at playtime and is struggling with a sense of purpose. That’s until Bonnie creates her favourite new toy Forky (Tony Hale); a kamikaze spork made out with a pipecleaner and plasticine, who wants nothing more than to jump in the rubbish bin than be a toy. So Woody takes it upon himself to guide Forky through his existential crisis, watching out for him as they all embark on a road trip which undoubtedly leads to disaster!

As Forky’s reckless actions lead him and Woody on a heartwarming (and sometimes terrifying!) adventure through a carnival and creepy antique store, the two toys cross paths with some brilliant new additions (and familiar faces) along the way. Standouts include fluffy duo Ducky and Bunny (Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele), who have a surprisingly sadistic streak with their hilarious story telling. Almost stealing the show is Keanu Reeve’s Duke Caboom, Canada’s top stuntman and daredevil who’s been haunted by his failure to live up to the stunts as advertised on TV his whole life. Yes the Keanaissance is real! But at the heart of the film is a touching love story between Woody and the crook wielding, free spirited Bo Peep (Annie Potts), as they explore what it means to be a toy.

However as much of the focus is on the new additions to the tale, the classic characters us older generation grew up with are pretty much sidelined. Unfortunately once Buzz (Tim Allen) and Woody are separated, the space ranger is relegated to a silly side plot that sees him trying to discover his ‘inner voice’, with Jessie (Joan Cusack), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Slinky Dogg (Blake Clark) getting even less screen time as they’re heavily confined to the RV.

As expected from a Pixar film, the animation is absolutely stunning and full of tiny little details that really bring each character to life. Ranging from visible scuffs on Buzz’s plastic armouring, to the painstakingly rendered fur on the cat, Pixar really do pour so much into their movies. Looking back at the first outing in 1995, it’s incredible to see just how far these films have come. As well as the outstanding animation, a lot of the scenes are chock full of fun Easter eggs and film references, with The Shining and Goosebumps proving key inspiration for the creepy antique store!

Overall, newcomer Josh Cooley reaches for the sky with Toy Story 4, combining a fun action adventure with a touching central romance. With a current run of disappointing Summer blockbusters, this film will undoubtedly restore your faith in cinema!