When Toy Story 4 was announced, there were a fair few grumbles from folk who had grown up with the series (myself included.) Toy Story 3 was the perfect finale – saying goodbye to our old friends with all the tears in the whole wide world fall down our cheeks. With a nod of his hat and a big ole; “So long partner,” we’d put our toys to bed so to speak. Chapter closed, franchised finished, and toys treasured.
The resurrection of the franchise a seven or so years later seemed unnecessary. In spite of this, Toy Story 4 came out of the holster packing a huge, big question that has loomed over the franchise: What makes a toy – a toy?
This all rested on the pipe-cleaner shoulders of an animated spork named Forky. Set not long after the events of 3, this latest entry sees Woody newly abandoned in the wardrobe, no longer picked by Bonnie to play. Determined to show that he is still a toy that matters, Woody sneaks into a Kindergarten Orientation day where Bonnie builds a new friend – the aforementioned Forky. However, Forky is meant to be trash so he is constantly trying to run away from the girl. Woody tries to save the day but an old familiar face could change his perspective on his purpose as a toy…
With Toy Story 4, Pixar have yet again shown how exquisite their animation is. Progressing over these past few decades, the studio have perfected every single detail. From the rendering on the hair to the glassy-eyed reflections in dolls, the scenes and the toys are impeccable drawn. It’s a wonder of colour and adventure.
However, this latest instalment is a disappointment. The whole story and script feels borrowed from the other entries. Since Toy Story 2, the plot has gone like so: Woody finds himself in a place he’s never been before, a friendly/familiar face convinces him that this life is better than being with his child, and a character who starts of pretty amicable turns into a villain. Woody has a revelation and the fate of the toys are at his whim. There’s new hilarious characters voiced by actors who were huge in the eighties and nineties, there is a threat of death (or whatever death toys can have in a movie such as this,) and, badabing badaboom, you have Toy Story film. The entire fourth movie feels so exhausting and there isn’t the same connection as the previous entries.
The introduction of Forky is exciting. Voiced by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, Forky is definitely a personification of a whole world of adults who believe themselves as “trash.” Not only that, but his existential crisis was a big draw and offered so many questions: Why are the toys sentient and what does it mean to be alive? These questions are brushed over in the first third, creating a muddled second and third one where the different points of views are confused together. It’s frustrating because there are strong ones too; Woody’s own conflict verses Forky’s huge debate added with an old friend in new circumstances. On their own, they make for riveting stuff but they never quite gel with one another.
Sure, Toy Story 4 tugged at the heart strings and you’ll be hard pushed to find folk with a dry eye at the finale. There’s also new voice-work from Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, and Christine Hendricks (whose quasi-villain is creepy enough to be threatening, especially with her helper ventriloquist dolls.) The film has some great comedy in it too such and it’s worth sticking around to the end of the credits for the best payoff in the whole series.
But Toy Story 4 isn’t as impressive as the other outings. It’s like going on an incredible holiday with your best friends. It is such a good time that you want to replicate that magic the next year, and the next, and the next. At some point, it is going to get weary and you are going to become a little bit more jaded about your favourite holiday.
There is great, crowd-pleasing stuff here. Unfortunately, the rest is just fluff.
Toy Story 4 is out in cinemas now.