The announcement of a fourth Toy Story chapter, felt like an easy cash grab for Disney, after the huge success that was the concluding Toy Story 3. After watching the first trailer and synopsis, I still wasn’t sure if this was gonna work. So being a bit cautious of seeing these beloved characters coming back nine years after we said goodbye to Andy, I can say – no need to be afraid. The toys are dusted off and look better than ever!
The film opens with a flashback to a rainy night where our toys are still happily living with Andy. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) are getting ready to rescue RC-racer – a radio-controlled toy car – that’s been stuck in a gutter and is about to be dragged into the sewers, if not saved in time. This is an exciting opening to get you right into the story and remind you of the bond these toys have with each other. “No toy gets left behind“, like Woody says multiple times throughout this franchise. This scene also shows how close Woody and Bo’s relationship just was, which gets torn apart moments later when the lamp that houses her and her sheep is given away.
Almost a decade later, after Andy has passed his beloved toys to young Bonnie, we see her playing with all of them, although Woody gets pushed aside more often as time passes. He gets left in the closet with some of her baby toys. But when Bonnie has to attend her orientation day for kindergarten, Woody sees an opportunity to sneak into her backpack to look after the nervous girl. In class, a selfish kid grabs Bonnie’s art supplies and drops some in a bin, where Woody jumps in to save some of it – along with bits of rubbish – which leads to Bonnie creating Forky (soon discovered to be a toy, voiced by Tony Hale), a spork with popsicle-stick feet, googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms. The family has a new member.
Bonnie adores Forky, but having an existential crisis, this spork knows it’s trash and feels like his only destination is the trash can, his safe haven. Woody, so longing for a purpose, takes it upon himself to keep rescuing and returning Forky, which will only get harder when Bonnie and her parents embark on a road trip in an RV. A journey on which we will meet carnival toys (Ducky and Bunny – voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), a Canadian stunt-motocross action figure (Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom – the coolest and most breathtaking toy ever created) and a manipulative vintage doll (Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby) who’s stuck living in an antique store, ready to do whatever’s needed to live a blissful life.
The emotions run high, with stunning animation and imagery all around. New characters that will win over your heart and make you laugh out loud with the funniest one liners. Did I really expect anything less, after three exceptionally strong films in this franchise?! Shame on me.
Toy Story 4 is an adventure full of subtle messages and metaphors, that carries on the legacy of its original trilogy. Disney/Pixar has done it again – a sequel that not only works as an ending, but also as a new beginning. When we get to chapter 5 (because let’s be real, this is gonna kill it at the worldwide box office), these characters will have seen so much more than just the walls of Andy/Bonnie’s room and have experienced what “letting go” really means.
Toy Story 4 is playing in Australian cinemas this Thursday!
Review by Seth Eelen