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Toy Story 4 - DVD Review

Toy Story 4

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

TAKEN at face value, Toy Story 4 might seem like an unnecessary addition to the beloved Pixar franchise that is simply content to retread old ground. But that would be to grossly underestimate the many themes at play.

For while the central plotting certainly does evoke a sense of deja vu, given that Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and company are forced to embark on yet another adventure that involves toys that have become separated and in need of rescue, its the themes that continue to deliver the real gold.

There’s the usual separation anxiety as well as the value of toys. But there’s also a newfound sense of what it is to grow up (for the toys as much as the adults) and to take life into your own hands. As such, it’s existential, while also nodding to the difficulty of parenting in the modern era.

Josh Cooley’s film, based on a screenplay co-written by Rashida Jones, Andrew Stanton, Will McCormack and Stephany Folsom, plays as well (if not better) to the adults who have grown up with this franchise, as it does to the kids who may be seeing a Toy Story film in the cinema for the first time.

It’s still fun, of course, and wildly inventive. While the characters are a blast: whether old or new. And Pixar’s ability to leave you in emotional tatters, while shedding the odd tear or two, is also present and maddeningly correct.

The story, in basic form, finds Woody and crew embarking on a road trip with new owner Bonnie and her new favourite ‘toy’, a self-made creation named Forky (a Spork, voiced by Tony Hale), who has provided some unlikely reassurance to her during her orientation day at nursery.

Woody’s task is to play ‘dad’ to Forky, who considers himself nothing but trash and wants to escape to a rubbish bin at every opportunity. But when Forky does manage to escape, Woody goes after him and – in doing so – becomes reunited with his long-lost friend, and potential love, Bo Peep (Annie Potts), while also having to contend with the unwanted attention of an antique pull-string doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), who has designs on Woody’s voice box.

As with all three previous Toy Story films, the ensuing adventure is both eye-catchingly beautiful and rip-roaringly fun, combining knockabout moments of comedy with inventive visual gags, plenty of classic film references and knowing verbal humour. Put simply, it’s a blast being in the company of these characters once again.

What’s more, all of the newcomers make an impact, with Keanu Reeves’ Canadian stuntman Duke Caboom arguably the pick of the bunch.

But while ensuring that audiences will have a great time, the creators of this fourth film also endeavour to make it a worthwhile journey too: one capable of making you think as well as laugh. There’s a real depth of emotion, particularly late on.

The themes resonate. And they’re not afraid to go deep. The lifelong struggle of being a parent [and a child], and knowing when to let go, is reflected in Woody’s relationship with everyone around him (including, ultimately, himself), and builds to some heart-rending decisions.

But those existential elements also reminded me of Pixar’s ability to continually tackle life’s big questions in its films, whether in those first 20 minutes of Up, the opening 30 minutes of Wall-E, or the whole journey of its central protagonist in Inside/Out (which, coincidentally, Cooley helped to create). Woody’s journey is ultimately about taking control of his own destiny and overcoming the demons that have been holding him back.

It leads to a beautifully bittersweet conclusion and one that’s delivered in typically note-perfect fashion. And it ensures that a really good fourth entry into the Toy Story franchise can – like its predecessors – truly be regarded as great.

Certificate: U
Running time: 1hr 40mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: October 21, 2019