After a near perfect ending to the trilogy Woody, Buzz and friends provide a compelling reason to go. This is surely the best ‘fourth film in a series’ and is an absolute delight.
This Toy Story 4 review is spoiler free. You can check out our spoilerific feature on the movie by clicking these words. You can also find out why one of our critics refuses to watch it by clicking these ones.
Woody (Tom Hanks) is finding it difficult to adjust to life with Bonnie and without Andy; he’s no longer the only sheriff in town, he’s no longer a favorite toy, and sometimes he’s left in the cupboard entirely. When Bonnie creates a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale), Woody finds a new place in the world taking care of the new toy, and teaching him what it means to be more than a mere utensil.
The Toy Story movies are sacred. They’re probably one of, if not the most consistent film trilogies of all time. The ending to Toy Story 3 felt like the perfect way to say goodbye to the characters that had found a place in the hearts of… well, anyone who had spent time in their company. When the fourth installment was announced, I was concerned, to say the least. Why go back to something that had finished so perfectly? More importantly, is there a fourth entry into a film franchise that is actually good? Aside from Rocky IV, obviously.
Rather disappointingly, Toy Story 4 does not see Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen) head out to Russia to battle against Russian toys after they killed Mr. Potato Head in an exhibition bout. There’s not even a snowy training montage. If Toy Story 4 doesn’t take the Rocky approach to the fourth film in a franchise was it even worth making? Shockingly, the answer is yes.
The film manages to sidestep the question of following up a perfect trilogy by not really feeling like a continuation of that story. Yes, the characters and the continuity line up perfectly with the previous three films but this feels more like a standalone film than a new entry into a sequence of movies. That makes this sound disjointed and isolated from the rest of the films, which isn’t really true. I think what I’m trying to say is that it perfectly picks up with our favorite toys without feeling like the start of a new trilogy.
Toy Story 4 is, thankfully, business as usual. On the surface, it’s a film about a fun road trip for toys and their adventures along the way. There are some great jokes, brilliant set pieces, and fantastic new characters, but it’s also much, much more than that. As you might expect from a series that gave us that incinerator scene in Toy Story 3, there’s a deeper, more interesting message hidden just below the surface. The film’s central message is basically a thesis on the meaning of life and what we do when our role and purpose in life changes.
There are some changes that aren’t necessarily for the better. The core partnership of the series is almost absent here, as Buzz is relegated to the sidelines. In fact, a good number of the familiar faces are reduced to one or two lines. This is very much Woody’s (and Forky’s) film.
To make up for the lack of screen time for some old favorites we get the return of a character that was missing in Toy Story 3, as Bo Peep (Annie Potts) comes back in a rather different role. After spending years as a lost toy, she’s back as a very different person (toy?) than we have seen before and it’s great to have her take more of an active role. Alongside a returning favourite, there are some great new characters. Of course, there’s Forky, who is surprisingly good and far less annoying than I had feared. The new star of the show has to be Keanu Reeves’ stuntman Duke Kaboom, a Canadian Evil Knievel. Then there’s a new double act on the scene in the shape of Ducky and Bunny (voiced by Michael Key and Jordan Peele) who have some of the funniest moments in the film.
It’s a real relief to say that Toy Story 4 is fantastic. It doesn’t quite reach the high points of the previous three films but then again, what does? Toy Story 3 was the end of Andy’s story and Toy Story 4 is the perfect end to… another character’s story.