Director: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Joan Cusack and Keanu Reeves.
Run time: 1h 40min
Almost 25 years since we first met Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, Jessie and the rest of the gang in the original Toy Story and nearly a decade on from the last instalment, those clever people at Pixar bring us the much-anticipated Toy Story 4. After the poignant and seemingly conclusive ending of Toy Story 3, where a college bound Andy passed his toys on to the young Bonnie to enjoy, it appeared to be the end of the road for our cowboy and space adventurer friend. You’d hope that Pixar would have one heck of an artistic reason to reopen the toy box rather than a purely financial one.
As Bonnie begins Kindergarten she creates Forky (Hale), an arts and craft project that becomes her psychological crutch as she adjusts to her new life. All Forky wants to do is retire to his happy place (a trash can) so it’s left to Woody (Hanks) to teach him what a toy’s purpose is. Woody also has his own issues to deal with as he becomes increasingly frustrated at being left to gather dust rather than be played with, which is something that never would’ve happened to him with Andy. A family road trip ensues and following a series of unfortunate events it becomes a race against time to reunite Bonnie with her newly made friend before it’s too late.
Pixar, once again, impress with their tactful handling of delicate issues. Separation, anxiety and loss are all explored with sensitivity and care with Woody the film’s emotive centrepiece struggling to find his purpose in life. Director Josh Cooley creates some wonderfully zany set-pieces including the opening rescue mission and a close encounter of the furred kind involving a toy hungry cat. There are a few scares to be had along the way, courtesy of Gabby Gabby (Hendricks), a doll in desperate need of a new voice box, and her sinister sidekick, Vincent, and his creepy cronies.
The laughs are mainly provided by newcomers Duke Caboom (Reeves), a Canadian motorcycle stuntman low in confidence after failing to live up to his own television commercial’s hype, and plush toys Ducky (Key) and Bunny (Peele). These two may look like huggable cuties, but they could certainly benefit from some anger management sessions.
Focusing primarily on a handful of characters means that your favourite from the ensemble might be left in the background a little. Indeed, secondary stars Ham, Rex, Jessie, Slinky and Mr & Mrs Potato Head don’t feature as much as they perhaps could have. However, the reintroduction of long-lost Bo Peep (Potts), now a cynical, independent survivor, is a triumph as she clashes with Woody over his desire to remain loyal to the same child even though their own dependence on toys has diminished as time passes.
Whilst it doesn’t quite have the emotional impact as its predecessors, Toy Story 4 is every bit as charming, fun and exciting as the others and still manages to take you to infinity and beyond.
Toy Story 4 is in UK cinemas now.
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