REVIEW: “Refrains From Re-Treading Old Ground” – ‘Toy Story 4’ (2019)

In Toy Story 4, the toys are on a road trip with their new owner Bonnie, who we met at the end of the last film. Out of the whole gang, Bonnie’s most beloved toy is Forky, a toy she made from bits of old rubbish during her kindergarten orientation day. Forky is extremely nervous, so Woody and the gang try to keep a close eye him.

As he did for Andy, Woody feels a huge sense of responsibility towards Bonnie’s happiness, looking over her like an overprotective Dad. However, when Bonnie begins to toss him aside in favour of her other toys, Woody begins to realise that his time with Bonnie is coming to an end. In a similar way to the storyline of the original Toy Story – when Woody is replaced with Buzz – Forky becomes Bonnie’s favourite new toy. But this time, instead of resenting the toy’s popularity, Woody takes it upon himself to ensure the spork’s safety. Woody has matured in this respect, understanding that it is okay for Bonnie to move on and that he has done his part for her childhood. This is just the beginning of the sacrifices Woody makes during the film, as he goes on to help other toys experience the joy of having a ‘kid’.

Like many of Pixar’s offerings, Toy Story 4 is an instant tear-jerker, hitting us hard with a burst of nostalgia as we see Andy spinning around with Buzz and Woody in hand. The scene transitions smoothly into Andy passing his toys on, and then to Bonnie playing with the toys herself. Bonnie is given so much personality as we see a montage of her playing. The animators capture the movement and spirit of a toddler brilliantly, and despite it being animated, it all seems very naturalistic. This film showcases just how far Pixar have come in terms of their artistry and technology: everything on screen is so convincing and realistic that it almost goes underappreciated. A thunderstorm scene at the beginning of the film is particularly impressive in this respect. 

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Despite being the fourth instalment of the franchise, this isn’t just a lazy continuation of the story. Toy Story 4 genuinely brings something new to the franchise, with a new setting for the toys to explore and hilarious new characters that are sure to become fan favourites. Casting comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as fairground toys Ducky and Bunny was a great move; the duo bouncing off each other with a shared sense of humour in some brilliant recurring jokes. Duke Caboom the Canadian stuntman toy, voiced by Keanu Reeves, is a hilarious side character: really silly and over-the-top, filling the gap left by the Barbie and Ken characters in the previous films. The majority of the toys we know and love spend the films’ duration in the RV, leaving the spotlight to these new characters. However, this keeps the film fresh, as it refrains from re-treading old ground while maintaining Toy Story’s nostalgia and sentimentality. 

Toy Story 4 is full of charm, in a crowd-pleasing sequel that introduces brilliant new characters and refreshes some of its old ones. Bo Peep’s newfound agency is welcomed and brings a new dynamic to these familiar toys. Technically and narratively admirable, Toy Story 4 really is just a joy to watch.