AS IF TO prove definitively just how relative time is, Toy Story 4 doesn’t feel a day older than the original Toy Story that was debuted waaay back in 1995.
This final version of the trilogy (only in Hollywood do trilogies come in four’s) feels as fresh, as delightful, as startlingly original, as magically well crafted as the original. From the moment that bouncing Pixar lamp stamps down on the “I”, you sit back and wallow in the 100 minute treat that follows.
The story deals (as usual) with our need to be loved in order to feel complete, via various detours that explore ideas of loss, loneliness and, what with a spork that thinks it’s no more than trash, identity. It follows Woody (Tom Hanks) and the gang’s adventures as they try to find and rescue, Forky, the spork (Tony Hale from Veep). This toy that thinks it’s just trash, belongs to their owner, Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) a lonely, similarly lost kid. It’s during her first traumatic day at school that she manages (with the secret helping hand of a paternal Woody) to create Forky. He’s a cock-eyed, ugly concoction of a spork and some pipe cleaners. Ugly he may be, but to Bonnie, Forky’s a warm, comforting BFF and companion…which naturally comes as alive, along with all the others, once she’s out of sight.
Woody’s rescue heroics takes him on a journey where he meets a few wonderful new creations – Duke Caboom, a Canadian stunt rider hiding his insecurities under slapstick braggadocio (Keanu Reeves in spirited form), a crazed doll desperate for love (Bonnie Hunt) and her henchmen, several (kids close your eyes now) demon puppets – and a joyous reunion with Bo-Peep (Annie Potts). This long lost flame of Woody’s is pure take-charge action gal. With her as his new companion, we know he’s in safe hands.
Writers Andrew Stanton (Finding Dory) and Stephany Folsom along with production designer Bob Pauley (Cars) and the CGI magicians at Pixar who’ve visualized these enduring characters, have, over the multiple iterations of the tale, consistently upped their game. Woody and the gang pull off the impossible balance of being quite clearly toys but also very identifiably real people. And director Josh Cooley’s visual pyrotechnics are unmatched; there are a number of breathtaking action scenes as exciting as any Marvel extravaganza. And it’s all delivered in a spirit of good humoured, often laugh out loud joyfulness.
What a marvellous antidote to these dark days of climate breakdown and Trump.
TOY STORY 4. Dir: Josh Cooley. Writers: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom from an original story by John Lasseter, Valerie LPointe, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack and Martin Hynes. With: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Bonnie Hunt. Production Designer: Bob Pauley. Art Director: Laura Phillips