Thu, 04 Jul 2019
Toy Story 4 (U)
Running time 1hr 40min
WITH all manner of sequels, spinoffs and reboots presently tyrannising the multiplex, it’s both invigorating and (mildly) frustrating to see that Pixar have stuck to the tried-and-tested formula with Toy Story 4. The film makes only slight efforts to expand the Toyverse, being infinitely more concerned with doing what this series does best; shamelessly tugging at your heartstrings. At this point, there’s something a bit repetitive (false, even) about the very conceit of the franchise, which explores grief and loss with the aid of cutesy animated toys. Part four plays out much like part three, minus the poignant sense of finality that the 2010 film brimmed with. With that said, the sight of Buzz, Woody and the gang on the big screen is a more-or-less guaranteed source of joy and nostalgia for cinemagoers of a certain generation; on that count alone, the movie is well worth your time.
A cast of fresh, memorable characters is an inevitable highlight of each Toy Story release and this film is no exception. Bonnie – Woody and Buzz’s new owner – fashions an improvised toy, Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), who proceeds to act as a hyper-anxious foil to Woody’s cowboy cool. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele get prominent billings (as ‘Ducky’ and ‘Bunny’, respectively), allowing them to serve up a family-friendly helping of their signature brand of bazinga-driven comedy. Best of all, however, is Christina Hendricks’ turn as the voice of Gabby Gabby, a villainous doll who heads up a gaggle of
ventriloquist dummies. Pixar is known for tempering the childlike sentimentality of their projects with a dose of menace and peril (think Monsters, Inc.’s scream-harvesting shenanigans, or Stinky Pete’s sticky end in Toy Story 2), yet this has never been as deliciously pronounced as when Gabby Gabby’s about – without wishing to ‘spill the beans’, her retro exterior conceals a deeply sinister side...
There’s a miniature-sized quest at the heart of Toy Story 4, one the series has seen fit to rehash time and time again. Narrative complexity is, however, rarely the selling point of this sort of film. The visuals exhibit fully the maturity of the Toy Story franchise – this is a highly distinctive world, packed with texture and detail. Kids and adults alike will be wowed by the quality of animation, which renders our heroes with unprecedented vibrance and crispness. The richness of this package is coupled with a thematic weightiness that’s bound to find resonance with viewers of all ages. Toy Story 3 functioned as a moving farewell to this much-loved series – it was far from clear we’d ever see these guys again. This follow-up is without that same consistency and purpose, yet it’s still an endearing, solid and well-crafted picture.