Since the truth about what our toys really get up to when we’re not around got out in the mid-90s, Sheriff Woody and his gang of plaything pals have cemented their place in our hearts and homes. The Toy Story franchise is perhaps one of the most intelligent in Disney’s portfolio in its ability to engage with its intended audience and effortlessly entertain. The evolution of a toy’s lifespan in a child’s possession, the fickle nature of children and the ultimate growing up and growing out of the beloved items that once held such a strong place in their hearts; these are the reflections Toy Story is built on.
Toy Story 4 is a hilarious yet evocative culmination of Woody’s experience. Replaced, lost, rehomed and now passed over for other toys; he’s seen it all. Still in the company of space ranger Buzz Lightyear, Jesse, Rex, Ham, Potato Head and Slinky along with new and old friends amassed along the way; there is still the one who got away.
A flashback to nine years earlier sees the fateful day Bo Peep and her woolly trio left Molly’s room for pastures new leaving Woody with an important decision to make. To stay for Andy or leave with Bo. This has always been Woody’s raison d’être; the child to whom he belongs. Their happiness and wellbeing drive every decision he makes and in this final chapter we watch as Woody himself grows up and considers life outside of a child’s room.
Now in Bonnie’s possession Woody and the toys face a new adventure with the reluctant arrival of newcomer Forky (Tony Hale), just one of the characters who make this Toy Story film the funniest of the four. A family road trip leads Woody to cross paths with Bo Peep once again. No longer the demure maiden we knew, life has thrown its curveballs at Bo casting her as the strong and independent female lead this franchise needs.
Shelved in Second Chance Antique Store, we discover Bo and her sheep escaped, living a life of freedom ever since. But the doll Gabby Gabby and her mob of creepy dummies are holding Forky captive so Bo and her band of cohorts aide Woody in retrieving Bonnie’s beloved spork. With the bright lights of a carnival providing an illuminating backdrop, there is an undeniable undercurrent of moving on.
This is a tale of transition and it is handled with the utmost care by the brilliant writers at Pixar who have so lovingly and expertly crafted these characters and their narratives over the past 24 years. There may be moments some of the younger cinema-goers will reach for Mum or Dad, there are definitely moments you’ll find tears welling in your eyes and for the rest I dare you not to laugh out loud. Keanu Reeves brings particular comedy as Duke Caboom while Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are hysterical as sewn-together carnival plush toys Bunny and Ducky.
Drawing the journey of Woody and co to a satisfying conclusion, I would go so far as to say that this is possibly the best Toy Story film to date. So make a date with your favourite toys for a movie experience that will without doubt take you to infinity and beyond!
Toy Story 4 (rated G) is in cinemas nationwide from 20 June.