VOD film review: Toy Story 4
The deep, dark well of mid-life crisis8
Katherine McLaughlin | On 25, Oct 2019
Director: Josh Cooley
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts
Watch Toy Story 4 online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is constructed to bring more than a few tears to the eye, especially with its moving conclusion. Much like the previous three films, it explores significant moments of human growth. This time, it does so with a charming road trip movie about passing on the baton.
We last saw Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr & Mrs Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and the gang in 2010, when they were passed along from Andy to the young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) at the end of the film. The sequel begins in the past, with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) literally breaking away from the fold for pastures new. Woody is heartbroken at her decision to leave and several years later is seen sitting dusty at the back of Bonnie’s wardrobe, almost forgotten in favour of her other, more treasured toys – including Trixie (the excellent Kristen Schaal). Early on, the film feels like a throwback to the initial Toy Story from 1995, but it eventually departs from themes of obsolescence into something new.
When Woody sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack on the first day of nursery, for partly selfish reasons, he ends up on a voyage of altruism that the film makes into a hugely entertaining animated adventure. He sees how happy her new home-made toy, Forky (a perfectly cast Tony Hale voicing literal trash made into something beautiful), makes her and sets out on a mission to ensure they are never parted. The fact that Forky acts like human garbage until he is taught his worth, and how that can be interpreted in relation to reality, adds another crinkling layer of poignancy to his sweet narrative. That you can now buy Forky merchandise is a subject for another article, but within the frames of the film, this DIY toy’s innocence is heartwarming.
As Bonnie’s parents continue on their family road trip, they make an overnight stop near an antiques store and a fairground. It’s here that Woody is reunited with Bo Peep, who is now a free spirit and explorer in the mould of Amelia Earhart meets Indiana Jones. She’s peppy and capable as she shows Woody her world and opens his eyes to a life of possibilities. The antiques store is given a horror movie vibe with an adversary in the form of Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who is guarded by a small army of Dead of Night ventriloquist dummies. (If you listen closely you can also hear Midnight, the Stars and You – a song from The Shining.)
As the action shifts between the two locations, the narrative gets a little tired, but picks itself back up by introducing new characters voiced by big names. Neglected, cuddly fairground prizes Bunny and Ducky (Jordan Peele and Keegan Key respectively reunited as a comedy duo) deliver lashings of slapstick humour and bickering. Keanu Reeves also turns up to voice tiny action figure Duke Caboom, announcing himself as Canada’s greatest stuntman with roaring confidence. He gets some giggle-inducing high-wire sequences.
Aside from cynical box office reasons, it’s difficult to fathom why there needed to be a third sequel in Disney Pixar’s beloved franchise. Still, this final film offers closure (with the possibility of spin-offs) and delivers on lovable kids’ entertainment while also digging into deeper issues.
Toy Story 4 is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.