We currently seem to live in a period of cinema where reboots and sequels to older franchises seem to be taking over – as much of a shameless cash grab as that may seem. Be it for better or worse, better in the case of the critically acclaimed Blade Runner sequel of 2017 and worse in the case of the more recent Men in Black: International, Toy Story 4 seems to be on the better end of the spectrum.
Serving as a direct sequel to Toy Story 3 (so don’t worry about all the straight-to-dvd specials that Disney continues to produce), the movie as a whole seems to acknowledge that 3 served as a fitting end to the franchise and rather seems more fitting as an epilogue to the story to Pixar’s most famous toys. As well as being self-aware in that sense, Toy Story 4 also seems to dump the majority of its feel-good nostalgia in its opening title sequence – showing a young Andy playing with his toys as he grows up, before recapping the passing on of the toys from the final moments of Toy Story 3. As well as providing some nostalgia to older fans of the franchise, this does help to fill in the blanks in anyone’s memories who might not have seen the rest of the franchise since their release – because apparently not everyone feels the need to religiously rewatch Toy Story every Christmas like me.
Nostalgia aside, Toy Story 4 provides a very fitting conclusion to the story of Tom Hanks’ Woody the Cowboy, whilst also finding a way to pass on the torch to a new ‘toy’,in the form of Tony Hale’s Forky – a spork with googly eyes created by Bonnie on her first day of Kindergarten. Although many of the older toys like Buzz and Jessie seem to take a back seat in this story, the relationship between Woody and Forky speaks volumes to the growth of Woody’s character – as we’ve seen the lengths to which he might once have gone to avoid being replaced as a child’s number one toy, but here he becomes dedicated to making sure Forky remains with Bonnie through what is becoming a trying time for the youngster.
Despite this focus on the two more forward characters, we are introduced to a plethora of new characters throughout the movie, such as Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom “Canada’s Greatest Stuntman”, Key and Peele as the plush toys Bunny and Ducky, and Christina Hendricks as the film’s primary antagonist Gabby Gabby. These new introductions blend into the universe flawlessly – where stars like Reeves might’ve seemed out of place in a live action performance – and Key and Peele bring a lot of comedy to what otherwise might have been a more serious film, aside from a rather enjoyable long-running joke about Buzz Lightyear discovering his conscience.
Throughout the film, and typically the franchise as a whole, Pixar finds a way to incorporate a very mature element to the plot despite the range of comedic elements throughout. The question here seems to be, although a broad topic, ‘what does it mean to be a toy?’ and we follow Woody in his rather relatable journey as he tries to understand how he wants to move on with his life, now that his owner has seemingly lost interest in him. This leads him to the world of lost toys, and reunites him with Bo Peep – after her absence in Toy Story 3.
As he goes on his journey to return a lost Forky to Bonnie, Woody comes to terms with the idea that maybe there is more to life for a toy than waiting for a playtime that will never come and that he has to move on from his kids, knowing he has done all he can for her – a feeling that will be sure to resonate with parents whose children have grown up and have become less dependant on them. This comes to a head in a sincere finale, that is sure to make even the toughest in the audience shed a tear.
It is still unsure whether or not this is to be the official ending to the franchise, or if we are still to get more singularly focused films for characters such as Buzz, Jessie etc but it is certainly a good way to go out, if the former is the case – and considering the franchise has managed to stay at such a high quality through four instalments, that is an impressive feat, regardless of what is to come.
Despite how you may feel about all the forced sequels that Hollywood seem to be churning out as of late, this is certain to be one of the best movies of 2019 – and I’m sure there will be heavy praise for it as it makes its way into movie history, infinity, and beyond.