Toy Story 4
Image Credit: Pixar
The 'Toy Story' trilogy, as it was up to this point, consisted of three flawless masterpieces of animated family viewing which are rightly revered.
We didn’t need a fourth instalment, or so we thought. Pixar, however, had other ideas. The question is, was it a good idea? Did we really need another ‘Toy Story’ film?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes, for the most part.
'Toy Story 4' may delve into familiar ideas and themes, but it breaks enough new ground to warrant the fourth episode. That said, it does feel like less of a conclusion to what came before (which ended on such a perfect cyclical note), but more an epilogue, or possibly even a spin-off.
She builds a new toy figure from a “spork”.
The plot kicks off by establishing that Bonnie, the new owner of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, et al, is playing with Woody less and less. Woody is starting to feel a bit superfluous to requirements. When Bonnie goes to pre-school for the first time, she builds a new toy figure from a “spork” (a cross between a spoon and a fork) with pipe cleaners and other odds and ends, whom she christens “Forky”.
Then, when Forky comes to life as per the other toys, he has something of an existential crisis, and keeps wanting to throw himself in the trash (because that’s where sporks normally end up).
When Forky ends up leaping out of a moving vehicle, Woody goes on a rescue mission.
Subsequently, Bonnie and her family decide to take a road trip. Bonnie takes along Woody and the gang, and Forky, who is monomaniacally still trying to throw himself into the trash. When Forky ends up leaping out of a moving vehicle, Woody goes on a rescue mission, but along the way bumps into an old companion who was pointedly absent from the third instalment.
As you can see, there are recycled story ideas from previous films – being “shelved”, toy rescues, and so forth – but the film does then take an interesting new turn. There are also plenty of exciting, and sometimes scary, set pieces (the latter involving ventriloquist puppets resembling Slappy from 'Goosebumps').
Laughs and tears are satisfyingly distributed by the generous screenplay, and director Josh Cooley oversees the sterling animation. It goes without saying that the usual vocal cast – Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts and so on – are all terrific. New additions include Jordan Peele and, in a particularly hilarious role as Duke Caboom, Keanu Reeves.
The previous films metaphorically dealt with issues of working life – new and popular members of staff replacing you (in the first film), promotion, and how it can sometimes mean you lose sight of what made you love your job in the first place (the second film) and retirement (the third film).
The third film was also about growing up, and – as my mother pointed out – to appreciate the full spectrum of melancholia contained therein, one had to have had a child grow up and leave home.
In many ways, on a metaphorical level, this one abandons the working life analogy and instead feels like a story about regaining independence once the children leave home.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, in one sense this is more a clever afterthought than a full-blown 'Toy Story' film. Buzz has a lot less to do here, despite a fun gag involving his “inner voice”.
I’m inclined to give this film a big thumbs up all around.
The lack of a properly unrepentant villain also weakens things a little. That said, the tear-jerking finale is so satisfying – even if it is predictable – that I’m inclined to give this film a big thumbs up all around.
Although 'Toy Story 3' had such a perfect ending that a fourth film is arguably still superfluous, when 'Toy Story 4' proves as satisfying as this, it seems churlish to complain.