WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2019)

 

Director: Josh Cooley

 

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Jay Hernandez, Joan Cusack, Lori Alan, Ally Maki

The toys are back in town.

 

Back in January of this year, I released my most intriguing and anticipated list of 2019 releases and, unsurprisingly, Toy Story 4 was on it. What was surprising was that it fell into the intriguing category on the basis of this being an “obvious cash grab” and entirely unnecessary. Now, I’m always happy to eat my own words and it was left to Woody, Buzz and director Josh Cooley to make that a reality. So, how was it?

Really very good.

 

My words have been eaten with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. The return of the toys is absolutely triumphant and fully vindicated. This fourth iteration sees the gang, along with new friend (made lovingly from trash) Forky (Hale), on a road trip with their new child Bonnie when Woody (Hanks) is reunited with old toy flame Bo Peep (Potts). Together they try to reconcile their beliefs n what they want from life as a toy – under the shadow of seemingly evil doll Gabby Gabby (Hendricks) who just wants to be adopted by a loving child. The initial marketing and synopsis really painted this as a new riff on Toy Story 2 but, thankfully, that’s not the case and Toy Story 4 stands on its own in terms of storytelling whilst managing to segue so wonderfully into the previous three movies.

 

Woody and Bo Peep receive the lion’s share of attention as the narrative revolves mainly around their struggles and beliefs. Should a toy be ‘lost’? Free to roam as they please or is their lot in life to please their child and bring love and warmth? It’s handled with more aplomb then you might imagine and the story includes all of the adventure, escapes and fun as you would imagine (and some joyfully creepy Slappy-esque ventriloquists dolls too). Returning characters are explained swiftly and well and new characters are introduced organically and nestle in just fine – the old guard are relegated to very much supporting roles, however. The humour is once again on point with Key and Peele’s Ducky and Bunny stealing the majority of laughs. There’s also a real momentum in terms of pacing, a real feeling that we’re going to infinity and beyond – everything movies smoothly, never dwelling for too long and always ensuring there’s enough going on to keep our eyes glued. It all leads to the movies emotional finale which aims straight for the heart and tear ducts and hits the bullseye. That said, I believe that the conclusion itself wasn’t long enough. Certain interactions or moments felt rushed and maybe it’s just the twelve-year-old inside of me but I wanted just a little longer.

 

It’s Pixar, so guess what? The animation is just gorgeous. It’s got to the point that certain aspects look photorealistic (i.e. the cat, the highway scenes) and the visuals pop so beautifully off of the screen that it’s all such a joy to watch. The returning voice cast slides back into their characters with ease and to hear Tom Hanks and Tim Allen together once more was great. Hendricks brought some real emotion to her doll and listen out too for a turn from Keanu Reeves – the man of the moment - as Canadian stunt-toy Duke Caboom. What else can be said about such a wonderfully talented and well-suited voice cast?

 

For a saga spanning twenty-four years, it’s a testament to Pixar and the writers for keeping it so fresh and raising the bar time and time again. Whilst Toy Story 3 delivered a fine finale for the characters we all love dearly, Toy Story 4 gives them greater purpose and a real send-off to boot. From going to watch the original movie in Woking way back in 1995 with my father to looking forward to showing my young daughter this final outing, it’s been a hell of a journey with Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, Randy Newman and Andy himself, Rex, Hamm, Slinky, the Potato Heads, Aliens and the whole gang. This may just be the best of the bunch, so get your tissues ready to join the gang one last time.

June 20th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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