Pixar, while being one of the biggest and most recognizable production companies working in film these days, they have a reputation for pouring everything they have into each of their films. Despite a few Good Dinosaur shaped gaps in the woodwork, the quality of their films has lived up to the hype their films manage to muster. Despite this, skepticism amidst the announcement of their most revered franchise Toy Story receiving a fourth instalment could be forgiven. Toy Story 3 left the characters in a wonderfully rounded place, and with it coming to a head as a trilogy, nobody expected another entry. Thankfully, Pixar catches lightning in a bottle once again in Toy Story 4, and the long-standing series receives (another) fond farewell packed with laughs and heart.
“PIXAR’S ANIMATION IS MEMORABLE THANKS TO THEIR INCREDIBLE ATTENTION TO DETAIL, AND TOY STORY 4 DOESN’T END THEIR STREAK.”
From the very opening of the film, it’s made abundantly clear that this story belongs to Woody. Tom Hanks gives another heartfelt and charismatic performance as the sheriff, and for a toy, he feels more human than ever. His frustrations, desires, and feelings are happily addressed throughout the film as he tries to balance what he feels is the right thing for him to do and what he really wants. The film tells a story of learning to let go and move on to brighter pastures, and Pixar tell it in the eloquent, kid-friendly way without coming across as though they’re talking down to their audience- they’ve had their practice, after all, and their formula works a treat here. Bo Peep is a deserved lead in this installation, and her notable change suits the new life she’s built away from the main cast. Her interactions with Woody are a shining example of Pixar’s character writing, and she remains a highlight of the film as a compelling and exciting toy that manages to shine beyond the already bright and packed-out cast.
Nostalgia plays a sure part in this film’s enjoyment factor, but there’s certainly no overbearing reliance on it. The new characters introduced to Toy Story 4 are an absolute delight- Key & Peele as Bunny & Ducky are a laugh riot, and Keanu Reeves’ Canadian bombshell Duke Caboom is a delight every time he comes on-screen. Caboom is used to explore a toy’s hangups and ideals, and the same is attempted through the film’s antagonist, Gabby Gabby. The character serves the plot well enough, but her development can’t avoid a feeling of being stuffed in to serve as stronger motivation. The sheer amount of characters introduced makes the scene in which she explains her strife feel slightly unnatural, but despite her hurried backstory, she gets a deserved send-off, and the audience is lured into pity for the character as she experiences the turbulence of her own hopes of a perfect life and fickle children.
Pixar’s animation is memorable thanks to their incredible attention to detail, and Toy Story 4 doesn’t end their streak. Each character has their own unique way of traversing the frame, and whether it be a clattering waddle in the case of delightful newcomer Forky or the chaotic and frenzied sprints of Gabby Gabby’s minions, the nail is hit firmly on the head in terms of visuals, especially in a stunning opening sequence in the nighttime rain. With one or two more open landscape shots, this film could well have stood as one of Pixar’s very best visually.
With a tear-jerking and rewarding finale leaving each of the film’s characters exactly where they need to be, Toy Story 4 is a fantastic return to a franchise that was thought to be better left alone. All doubts have shifted, and the characters of the long-running franchise new and old get a wonderful bookend. Without a doubt, a film not to be missed by Pixar fans, and even for those who aren’t- you’ll be begging for a Forky spin-off soon enough.