Film review: ‘TOY STORY 4’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The Toy Story movies have been some of the crowning achievements of modern family film-making. All of them have been wonderful animated fantasy adventures that are cleverer, more inventive, funnier and more moving than most Hollywood live action films. It’s one franchise that deserves a multitude of sequels. Toy Story 4 continues the impressive standard of the previous films although with a familiar plot line, it isn’t quite memorable as the superb second and third instalments.

The film retraces cowboy doll Woody’s (Tom Hanks) journey from his home with Andy to new owner Bonnie. No longer Sherriff of the bedroom toy community, Woody is feeling a lack of purpose. He has to fly into action, though, when a new addition to Bonnie’s toy family, kindergarten craft project Forky (Tony Hale) is abducted by a creepy doll, Gabby (Christian Hendricks) and her sinister ventriloquist dummy henchmen. Woody’s quest sees him reacquainted with romantic interest Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

Toy Story 4 does a typically expert job balancing quirky kid and adult-friendly gags with genuinely exciting and kinetic (but not too manic) adventure and touching emotion. All this is delivered with phenomenally vivid and realistic animation that displays an astonishing attention to detail.

As always, the film is brought to life by terrific voice work from an all-star cast who infuse each character with remarkable humanity. Tom Hanks once again brings great warmth and pathos to the anxious cowboy Woody and through him touches on weighty themes such as the need for companionship and the meaning of life no less. Tim Allen is still great fun as that parody of a misguided American heroism, Buzz Lightyear and Annie Potts makes Bo Peep a sassy, no nonsense action woman. There’s also contributions from regulars Joan Cusack, Jeff Garlin and the late Don Rickles and cameo voice work from Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks and the ubiquitous Flea. A lot of the focus, though, is on new characters, particularly Forky and Canadian motorcycle daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). While Forky is a delightfully cute character, Duke Caboom seems to have become lost while trying to find his way to The Lego Movie.

Toy Story 4 ticks nearly all the boxes of the first three films in terms of energy, wit, visual gymnastics and pathos although it doesn’t have quite the same impact. That spark of originality isn’t quite as bright due to the story here being largely a reworking of Toy Story 2’s Woody kidnapping plot. Still, within this familiar framework, director Josh Cooley (in his directorial debut) and the film’s substantial writing team which includes Parks and Recreation’s Rashida Jones create more than enough memorable moments.  Toy Story 4 may not be the best in the series but like its predecessors, it achieves the remarkable feat of being an entrancing experience for the youngest children and all the way up to the grumpiest film critic.

Nick’s rating: ****

Genre: Animated comedy/ action/ adventure.

Classification: G.

Director(s): Josh Cooley.

Release date: 20th June 2019.

Running time: 100 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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