Is Toy Story 4 anything more than one last wring of the franchise towel to drain those last few dollars out? Disney has decided today’s audiences require “new” versions of their 1990s classics such as The Lion King, Aladdin, and Toy Story. Did we truly need more one adventure with Woody and Buzz Lightyear? After the perfect ending of Toy Story 3, the short answer is no.
The fourth film follows Woody, Buzz, and the crew handling the introduction of a new ‘toy’, Forky, as they all head off on a family road trip with their new kid, Bonnie. Navigating around the apparent necessity to re-open this world, director Josh Cooley’s greatest achievement is to ensure that this latest instalment does feel like a Toy Story film. The creative team’s emotional intelligence should be applauded as the film delivers similar, if less compelling, soul, humour, and warmth. There is true joy in watching these characters back on the screen enjoying new adventures.
The introduction of new characters such as Tony Hale’s Forky, Key and Peele’s Ducky and Bunny, and Keanu Reeves as the Canadian stunt-cyclist Duke Caboom are highly welcome. Each of the characters infuses their act with necessary humour – not just light titters but hearty laughs.
Circling back to that main question, does Toy Story 4 need to exist? Even with all the considerations of new characters, great laughs, and a warming story, the answer remains no – it doesn’t need to exist. Let’s reframe the question though. Is it OK that Toy Story 4 exists? The answer is yes.
Cooley’s dive into weirder, artistic and more existential narrative elements easily justifies the film’s existence. It may derive from cynical commercial roots, but it’s an undeniable pleasure to spend time with Woody and co. once more.
CAST: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keanu Reeves, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key
DIRECTOR: Josh Cooley
WRITERS: Stephany Folsom, Andrew Stanton (story and screenplay), John Lasseter, Josh Cooley, Valerie LaPointe, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Martin Hynes (story)
SYNOPSIS: When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.