It’s interesting how many people are comfortable with the number 3. In film, audiences always seem to feel like the third film in a series is a comfortable stopping point. I felt the same about the widely treasured Toy Story series, a film series that has become an integral part of the evolution of 3D animation. For a long time, I felt that the Toy Story series had come to an end, but apparently not, and when I heard it was announced I thought to myself “uh oh, it’s happening again”. Too many times we’ve seen film franchises that carry on beyond the realm of comfort for whatever reasons, usually revolving around money, and it’s very easy to walk into Toy Story 4 feeling slightly cynical about it. God, I love it when I’m wrong.
Toy Story 4 finds continuations where there seemed to be no continuation. We thought the arc of these toys was over, it turns out there is more to explore. We explore this via navigation from a smartly written script as the previous Toy Story films have done in the past. In the instance of Toy Story 4, the writers are treading on familiar turf with a continuous exploration into purpose and belonging. A theme that makes this series watchable by all ages. What makes this familiar message more powerful is how they explore it through Forky (Tony Hale) a new toy who thinks he is trash, after being made from it, is shown that he has a bigger purpose to fulfill as a toy.
A more familiar character who explores purpose is everyone’s favourite rootin’ tootin’ cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks). He is on the opposite end of the field whereas Forky’s purpose is just beginning, Woody feels like his is coming to an end as he is being neglected by Bonnie. The two characters complement each other well making their interactions with each other vastly entertaining. Forky is such an easy character to accept as the newest addition to the gang of toys we’ve grown up watching.
As well as being entertaining for all ages, the humour also shares in this delight with Toy Story 4 being possibly the funniest of the Toy Story films, which is redirected into the newest characters in the series. By far, the funnies are the duo of Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele). I’ve been a big fan of their comedy and I’ll often find myself binge-watching their sketches on YouTube so I kind of knew what to expect, nevertheless, I found myself in giggle fits, especially in their plan making. Doom Kaboom (Keanu Reeves) is another new addition who is a breath of nostalgia for anyone like me who owned an Evil Knievel toy. They work the ownership of that toy into the character effortlessly, from his constant crashing to the neglect people had of that toy not being advertised properly.
When you walk into a Toy Story film, you’re expecting that your heartstrings are going to be tugged at and this film will deliver. However, it won’t be until the very end as the films primary focus is to take you on this adventure, and it has most things you’d expect. You have the funny times, the emotional times, even horror elements are thrown it at a kid-friendly rate but not so much as to leave the adults out (There is a clever reference to The Shining, extra points if you noticed that). It’s nicely paced, well incorporated and just a blast overall.
It sounds like a perfect follow up to its fantastic predecessor, however Toy Story 4 is not without its flaws. This film doesn’t take you to the heights reached by the other three films, but to be fair, that is a big reach, so I gave it a little leeway. However, I wish that the film would have given something for the likes of Jessie (Joan Cusack), Slinky (Blake Clark) and Hamm (John Ratzenberger) to do. For most of the film, their role is to just sit in a motorhome and wait for the more important storylines to wrap up.
Even the best friend dynamic between Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen), one of the most enduring character relationships in the series is brushed aside. Sure Buzz has his own storyline about using his inner voice which is really his voice box phrases and some may argue that there is intention behind this, but when you lose the character dynamic that has driven these films to become instant classics, you have to fill it with something even more special, to me Toy Story 4 couldn’t find it.
These setbacks should however not put you off seeing this film. This is a film that has vastly defied expectation with a wholesome adventure with a theme that feels more important and more explored. It now feels almost impossible to feel disappointed by a Toy Story film because they all seem as good as each other, and now with Toy Story 4, we can continue to say that with confidence.
(Normally with Pixar films, I would also include a review of their ‘shorts’, but there is no short film before Toy Story 4 so bear that in mind when you see it).
Final Result: 9/10 – Excellent
Have you seen Toy Story 4? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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