There’s an inherent distrust and cynicism that many of us hold toward Disney, and by extension Pixar. Whether it be focussing on far less compelling side characters and stories, such as in Finding Dory or more recently Incredibles 2 pointlessly rehashing trodden ground, seeing beloved childhood franchises rebooted and remade often screams easy cash grab. So news that Toy Story – a series which had such a satisfying and concise trilogy arc – would get a fourth film, set alarm bells ringing for many.

But fear not! Toy Story 4 feels like such a distinct and independent entry which in no way diminishes the previous three films, and in many senses enhances the impact of their narratives by providing the characters with additional closure. The audience are reunited with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the rest of the plastic posse who are now living with Bonnie, the young girl introduced in Toy Story 3. The plot revolves around Woody as he copes with no longer being owned by Andy. He does this by taking new toy Forky (Tony Hale) – a spork with googly eyes stuck to it – under his polyester wing. 

Certain characters take a back seat to make room for Woody and Forky’s adventure, which is a shame, but necessary to allow proper space to explore some of the films mature and at times existential themes of love, life and one’s own purpose. These topics have been touched upon by its predecessors, but Toy Story 4 brings them to the forefront expertly, so they still feel unique. This is perfectly weighted with call backs in the forms of musical cues and visual montages, done in a way which provide genuine warmth and homeliness, rather than just a cheap reference for the older people in the audience.

Even tonally, Toy Story 4 matches its predecessors; at times it’s a bit creepy and moody, other times it is of course gut wrenchingly emotional. Introduction of Evel Knieval-esque stunt toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) as well as plush teddies Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) provide some much-needed comedic levity. The whole cast, including Annie Potts who returns as Bo Peep, are on point throughout as expected.

It’s also become par for the course for Pixar to make stunning-looking films. But credit where it’s due, Toy Story 4 must be considered their visual magnum opus, arguably the greatest piece of animation ever produced. Whilst others may be better from an artistic sense, Pixar animation is clearly at the forefront of photo-realism. Hair, lighting, water; all of it is breathtakingly brilliant and detailed. If there’s one advantage of Disney domination, it’s their pioneering in cinematic technologies, and where better to show this than in an animated children’s film?

It’s hard to judge Toy Story 4 without rose tinted spectacles, but it’s a nostalgia many will share. For the many who still get a little bit giddy over that opening tune and that sky-blue title card, Toy Story 4 provides the same sense of joy and innocence which made the originals so special.

5 stars

Image credit: MovieDB

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