Toy Story 4 (2019) Film Review

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24 years ago, Pixar made its mark in cinematic history with their first film Toy Story. The first film to be made entirely by CGI, it established the studio as a powerhouse in animation. Although the series delivered a poignant instalment in Toy Story 3, Woody, Buzz and the gang are going on one last adventure in Toy Story 4.

Taking place a few years after Andy’s departure, the latest film sees Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the group settled as Bonnie’s toys. However, they soon face an issue in the shape of Forky (Tony Hale), a toy made from trash. Although he quickly becomes Bonnie’s newest favourite, a manic Forky rejects his new life and along with Woody, becomes separated from the group on a road trip.

After the trilogy seemingly wrapped up nine years ago, fans were surprised to see Pixar revisiting Andy, nay, Bonnie’s toys. With the return of the gang, as well as several new characters, there is a lot of anticipation as to what to expect. In short, director Josh Cooley and screenwriters Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton need to bring an instalment that both fits in with the rest of the series and delivers a fitting conclusion.

The first three films benefit from the toys’ journey with Andy. As audiences see him grow up from a young boy to a college student, it feels like we are on a similar journey. Toy Story 4, however, feels like an after-thought. The absence of Woody and Buzz’s witty camaraderie, as well as Andy himself, affects the film’s emotional attachment. Amid fears of being redundant, Toy Story 4 is relying on the characters to win audiences over. Thankfully, Folsom and Stanton’s screenplay offers a different perspective that brings an unexpected sense of maturity.

Since their introduction in 1995, the gang have shown a deep loyalty to their owner with Woody leading the charge. However, Toy Story 4 shows audiences that there is more to this attachment besides a name under their feet. Here, Woody is at an existential crossroads – after Andy’s departure, his fears lead him to believe Bonnie no longer needs him. While googly-eyed Forky questions his new life as a toy, the cowboy finds himself in his own crisis. Thanks to the slightly sinister Gabi Gabi (Christina Hendricks) and a hardened Bo Peep (Annie Potts), he soon remembers his purpose – and it is certain to bring out a tear or two.

While Hanks, Allen and Hale deliver both comedy and heart, what makes the film is the new characters. Soft toys Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) and poser daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) brilliantly enhance the screenplay to provide some of the film’s funniest scenes. Toy Story 4 also offers stunning and beautifully detailed animation, which highlights how far Pixar has come since Toy Story and offers a fitting (second) ending to the series.

Although it may feel redundant, Toy Story 4 encapsulates the comedy, nostalgia and emotion that makes the series so great. With one final adventure with Woody and the gang, it celebrates the joy of having a toy – and the fun of being one.

Toy Story 4 is out in UK cinemas on 21 June.

Director: Josh Cooley; Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom (screenwriters)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Jordan Peele, John Ratzenberger, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Jordan Peele
Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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