The Toys are back in town, toys are back in town. Wait – we’ve been here before, haven’t we? And there was, forgive us for saying, a very definitive ending and a heartbreaking goodbye to our most beloved collection of plastic rapscallions that was one of the best moments of the 21st century. And now, there back, again? That, we’re sure, was the reaction of millions when word of Toy Story 4 broke and that Pixar was heading back for some more playtime seemed somewhat misguided. Sure, knock out as many Cars sequels as you like, but this? Shame on all of us: we needn’t had worried.
It’s been something of a bumpy ride actually getting to this point, with numerous screenwriters and filmmakers coming and going to crack the ice. Just how do you follow up perfection? Just how do you reopen a chapter that was pretty definitely closed? Well, just like before only this time embracing the old and the new, something borrowed and some blue. And red, yellow, green, purple, and so on. For Toy Story 4 is an almost perfect concoction of what we love and what we didn’t know we wanted; a rainbow-spattered adventure film that shows us the power of everlasting friendships and love, following your heart, letting go of the past and the importance of being true to yourself, no matter what anyone else may think.
That’s true of many of the characters here, but of course it’s Sheriff Woody who takes centre stage again alongside out newest recruit Forky (Tony Hale), a spork fashioned into a plaything by Bonnie, in whose house the toys now roam. Woody has become disillusioned after his separation from Andy in the previous film and feels it’s his job to protect Forky and help him settle into the group before they head off on a summer trip to the carnival. Along the way they make some new friends – Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a vintage doll from the 40’s and 50’s; carnival prizes Ducky and Bunny (superb turns from Key & Peele) and stuntman Duke Kaboom (a hilarious Keanu Reeves) – and one old: Bo Peep (Annie Potts), with the latter changing things in very surprising ways. It means many of those beloved characters get a little sidelined, but for the bigger picture it seems a necessary if slightly disappointing adjustment
And that’s the best compliment you can lay on TS4: just how surprising and fresh everything things. It doesn’t have the emotional impact of the last third of its predecessor (though it certainly comes close in moments), but what it lacks in feels it makes up for in big shenanigans with chases, heists and death-defying escapes that kids and adults will adore. Indeed, those of a certain age will get a kick out of the Metal Gear Solid-like sneak attacks involving absolutely terrifying ventriloquist dummies.
So, when all’s said and done, was Toy Story really worth rehashing for a fourth installment? Well, trust us when we say that we would happily sit through some more if this one is anything to go by. A fun-filled, vibrant, wacky and heartfelt adventure that is a treat for everyone.