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MOVIES: Toy Story 4 - Review

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Toy Story 4
has more in common with the recently aired HBO, TV MA-Rated, foul-mouthed Deadwood movie than you’d expect. Like Deadwood, it’s a sequel that has been a long time in the making to a previous series that we weren’t sure we were ever going to get in the first place, and like Deadwood, it also acts as an epilogue. There may be considerably less swearing and less extended Ian McShane monologues in Toy Story 4 but both are golden examples of how to pull off epilogues, winning back the fans of the respective franchises and keeping them hooked from start to finish, generating positive buzz that will only draw new audiences in.

Times have changed for Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the rest of the gang. Bo Peep is no longer with them, and neither is Andy, who has left for college at the end of Toy Story 3. After a quick montage that repeats these events from the third film set to “You’ve Got A Friend in Me”, where we find the new Toys adjusting to life with their new owner, Bonnie. The plot kicks into gear when Bonnie brings home a new toy after her first day at Kindergarten introduction, a toy that shouldn’t have been 'born' in the first place. His name is Forky – who is quite literally made up of a disposable fork that’s meant for the trash and nothing more. Like Buzz in the first film, Forky doesn’t want to be a toy, but due to Bonnie’s newfound attachment to Forky, Woody – who is no longer a favoured toy, takes it upon himself to ensure that nothing happens to Forky, no matter how much he wants to be thrown back in the trash where he believes he belongs.

The plot plays out kind of like an animated, family friendly version of James Mangold’s Logan with Tom Hanks stepping in for Hugh Jackman and Tony Hale stepping in for Dafne Keen. Hale is a delight as Forky, who is still adjusting to life in the first place and has to be taught all the rules by Woody, acting as a reluctant babysitter. Yet that doesn’t mean that the film slows down for exposition, in fact, Toy Story 4 is perfectly paced, reaching the end of each act remarkably well and taking nothing for granted considering that this could have been a cheap and easy cashgrab. Although most of Andy’s former Toys are largely reduced to mere supporting roles in this film with little screentime for any of the established cast outside of Woody, Buzz and Bo Peep, there is a touching tribute for Don Rickles, the voice of Mr. Potato Head. The new cast fit into the film well – Keanu Reeves continues his streak of excellent surprise cameos in movies playing a Toy daredevil racer, and Christina Hendricks gives added depth to Gabby Gabby, a three-dimensional antagonist who is one of the film’s biggest strengths.

The trio of leads – Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Annie Potts are all exceptional, and it’s to their credit that they’ve made Woody, Buzz and Bo as memorable as they have done. It’s hard to think of characters as memorable who haven’t been adapted from a different medium, be it books or comics on film, and they’ve really left an impression on screen. The animation is visually stunning and in terms of Toy Story films it’s easily the best looking one yet, with several spectacular sequences in the rain being a real highlight.

Riley’s First Date? Director Josh Cooley makes up for the lack of an accompanying short that normally is found at the start of most Pixar movies and the choice even works as an end of an era. The script, written by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folson touches on ideas such as Forky’s existential crisis, whilst also gives fantastic character development to Woody, who gets the most focus out of any of the characters. We learn more about the world and we see what happens to more Toys who don’t have kids, and with the unique setting of a theme park for most of the last two acts the film swill always find a way to entertain.

It’s Pixar, so of course it’s going to have an emotionally charged scene in there as their track record shows although Toy Story 4 doesn’t hit home quite as hard as the previous instalment it still leaves a clear mark. Seeing that these characters have grown up with us and how they’ve changed is never not going to be touching, and the film almost feels refreshingly small scale compared to most franchises’ trends of escalation as they go deeper and deeper into the series. Toy Story 4 proves that not only you don’t have to go bigger to be better, but also makes a case for being one of the best films that wasn’t really needed at all.

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