Published Jun 13, 2019Toy Story 3 beautifully wrapped up the saga of Andy and his collection of sentient toys, so it's easy to be a little sceptical about the prospect of yet another sequel. Don't kids like apps more than old-fashioned toys these days anyway?
That cynicism is dispelled within the first couple of minutes of Toy Story 4, which is just as funny and heartwarmingly poignant as the other films in the franchise. Pixar is still operating at God-level here.
It picks up soon after the action of Toy Story 3, as Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and the gang now live with their new kid Bonnie., Woody finds himself out of favour with the young girl, and his sheriff duties have been handed off to the cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack).
It's a touching tale about the ways kids grow up and leave parts of themselves behind — similar to the other Toy Story films — but it really gets going with the introduction of a new character. Forky (Tony Hale) is a discarded spork repurposed as an art project; he instantly becomes Bonnie's favourite toy, and so it becomes Woody's job to teach Forky how to be a toy and not simply a piece of trash. It's a hilarious storyline that taps into the wide-eyed naïveté Hale brought to Arrested Development as Buster.
There's also a pseudo-romance storyline involving Woody and his former flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts), plus some genuinely creepy sequences involving a retro doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her gang of sinister puppets in an antique store. There's a Chucky-like atmosphere to the way it mixes comedy and slapstick horror — and it might be genuinely scary for young kids.
These scenes make Toy Story 4 feel fresh, even as it explores the same themes of loyalty and aging that Pixar has already perfected in the past. And there's plenty of all your favourite toys: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is learning how to listen to his "inner voice"; Trixie (Kristen Schaal) is a shit-disturbing dinosaur; and stand-out newbie Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) is a Canadian daredevil who performs motorcycle stunts.
Without giving too much away, the film culminates in tear-jerking ending that feels like a franchise finale. Perhaps this is the end for Toy Story, since it's hard to imagine how Pixar could possibly top themselves yet again. Stick a spork in me, I'm done.