For the last few years it’s become apparent that the trilogy as we know it is dead and that the quadrilogy (not a real word) is king. Now, as the saying goes, you can’t get too much of a good thing but whoever said that obviously never sat through the 4th Indiana Jones movie; a franchise that also had a perfect ending with it’s third installment that was monkey shat on by a significantly misjudged, belated follow up.
Let’s make no mistake here, Toy Story 3 had an utterly perfect caper to the whole series with a grown up Andy giving his beloved playthings to a young girl named Bonnie while everyone who watched it, regardless of age, gender, creed or colour collapsed into uncontrollable fits of histrionic weeping.
While maybe not as single minded of purpose when it comes to ripping the tears from your overtaxed tear ducts as Toy Story 3, it is my great pleasure to state that Toy Story 4 is a worthy continuation of the series that may easily be the best franchise in animation history.
Since being given to Bonnie, Woody’s life hasn’t really been the same as his new owner is playing with him less and less, however when she builds a makeshift toy from bits and pieces at her first day at kindergarten, Woody takes it upon himself to coach this mismatched pile of existential angst – named Forky – as to what it means to be a toy. This is easier said than done as Forky can’t get past the fact that he used to be a simple spork and whose only aim is to return to the trash where he feels he belongs. After Forky hurls himself out of a camper van window during a road trip with Bonnie’s family, Woody goes on an adventure to get him back that brings him back into a chance meeting with old flame Bo who had been given away years earlier.
First things first. If you are coming to Toy Story 4 looking forward to meeting up with all you’re old friends like Rex, Potatohead and Slinky again, you might wanna check some expectations at the door as a lot of the classic characters don’t really have much to do this time round (even Buzz has noticeably reduced screentime). No, this fourth installment’s greatest strength lies with it’s wealth of new arrivals who keep the movie feeling fresh and new.
The most important addition is the surprisingly triumphant return of Annie Pott’s Bo Peep, upgraded here from mere girlfriend role to full on rugged survivalist who can more than hold her own in any situation and who, along with Woody, really is the main character of the whole movie. Giving insanely funny support are a varied cast of misfits who score high whenever they are onscreen. Forky (Arrested Development’s Tony Hale) and his surprisingly relatable struggle with his purpose in the world we’ve already mentioned by we are also treated to plush hucksters Ducky and Bunny (Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key), tiny officer of the law Giggles McDimples and best of all, the ubiquitous Keanu Reeves as self-doubting, Canadian stunt-toy, Duke Caboom (“Yes I Canada!”). The new characters are SO strong, in fact, that they do the impossible and make you not miss the original gang as they spend the movie cooling their heels back at the camper van and you yearn for future adventures just to spend more time with them.
The only weak link here is Chrintina Hendricks’ Gabby Gabby and that’s only because she is a more subtle presence than previous antagonists like the brutal Sid or the poisonously bitter Lots ‘O Huggin’ Bear, but her gaggle of hideously, hilarious ventriloquist dummy henchmen are utterly sublime.
So while some fans may be disgruntled at first that their beloved characters may seem to be getting phased out, Toy Story 4’s new playthings will undoubtedly win you over with chuckles – and yes, tears – to spare as the series reaches yet another seemingly definitive conclusion.
But I wouldn’t rule out a part 5, after all it wouldn’t be Pixar if they didn’t toy with our emotions…