2010 was a mad year. I turned 21, just met my future fiancee and one of the greatest film trilogies ended. That’s right boys and girls Toy Story 3 had come out. This ended the story of Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) Jesse (Joan Cusack) and all the other toys we had grown up with on an incredible high. What a perfect way to end their (toy) story, or so we thought. Over the years there have been shorts giving us a peek into their continuing adventures and then several years ago it was announced that we’d see them once again on the big screen in Toy Story 4.
The film opens up to a flashback set nine years ago. Our motley crew of toys is still with Andy and on this stormy night, they have to mount a rescue to save beloved RC who has been left outside. The poor thing is close to being swept away by the current and so the gang jumps to action.
Once all is said and done an unexpected visitor arrives and takes Bo Peep (Annie Potts) away as Andy’s sister doesn’t want her anymore. Woody tries to save her but she is resigned to her fate and they say their goodbyes. It’s a touching moment. Fast forward through a lovely montage and we’re back in the present day with Bonnie the new kid on the scene.
She is about to start Kindergarten and so Woody worries that she won’t be able to handle it without a friend. While in class Woody passes a few choice items to Bonnie and she makes a little toy friend called Forky. She makes it through the day and Woody is quite pleased with himself until Forky (Tony Hale) starts screaming.
You’ve got a friend in me
With the arrival of Forky Woody takes it upon himself to make sure that Forky is around Bonnie all the time to keep her safe. This is difficult due to Forky not quite understanding what he is. After all, he wasn’t made a toy. He was a spork, a popsicle stick, and other trash. This makes him a unique oddity in the film. It helps that Tony Hale brings his signature style of comedy to the performance. Forky is a hell of a guy even if he’s a little dim.
The plot of Toy Story 4 deals with what it means to be a toy and Forky is the opening dialogue. There are other characters with other views on being a toy and this is what is at the centre of the plot. With this Toy Story 4 doesn’t have a traditional villain or even a traditional narrative.
What I will say though is even with its fascinating narrative it is the least interesting part of the film. My main issue is that ultimately the film feels unnecessary but being necessary isn’t always needed for an enjoyable film which Toy Story 4 is.
You are a toy!
As I said before, the narrative is decent but what makes Toy Story 4 so great are its characters. It’s mainly the new ones that shine as we see the original characters sparingly. Apart from Woody and Buzz the rest of the original cast has very little to do. It’s the new toys time to shine. A particular highlight for me was Ducky and Bunny played by the legendary comedic duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele respectively.
They brought me to genuine tears. They have several comedic scenes that are scene stealers.
Another element of Toy Story 4 which was something that will capture you from the word go is the design. This is a beautiful looking film. The colours pop, the locales are stunning and the various character designs are fascinating. I found myself enthralled by the first scene alone. Seeing the animation on show with regards to the lighting of the house and the rain outside is spectacular.
All this comes together well thanks to newcomer Josh Cooley. He knows how to pull on the heartstrings and get the best performance out of his cast. He sets up a great throughout the film and this is made all the more impressive when you learn that he is making his feature film debut with Toy Story 4.
To infinity and beyond
Toy Story 4 is something that is hard to quantify. After all Toy Story 3 effectively ended the story. It was universally adored and that final scene will bring tears to every man, woman, and child so why make another one?
This is the question not just I but every critic who watched this film had heading into the screening. So did Toy Story 4 have the deck stacked against it? Yes, so how did it all shake out?
Really well, really well. I laughed, I cried and I was happy to see these characters again. Was this story necessary? No, and it does take away from the film ultimately, but that doesn’t matter when you love these characters so much.