Toy Story 4 lives up to the series’ reputation

Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack return for the fourth entry in the multi-Oscar winning Toy Story franchise. It’s an incredibly tough act to follow, but as Adam Fresco explains, Pixar delivers.

The big question going in was could this justify a fourth chapter in a trilogy that started twenty-four years ago with the delightful surprise of a fully digitally realised movie which was so good, you forgot it was all computer-generated? Could it live up to a sequel that managed an even better script and character development, and a third part which seemed a fitting conclusion to a nostalgia-infused tale of childhood past? Surprisingly the answer is “yes” because, guaranteed box office dollars aside, this fourth adventure does a damn fine job, embracing the inevitability of kids growing up, only to be replaced by new children in search of stories packed full of warmth, humour and unabashed merchandising.

Old favourites Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) are joined by new friends, including a fluffy duck and bunny comedy double-act (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key). Proving he can be way more than a real-life action hero in John Wick, Keanu Reeves voices a toy action hero, Canadian stunt-bike rider, Duke Caboom, and steals the show for the adults. Keeping the kids giggling is the friend Bonnie (literally) makes on her first visit to kindergarten. Frankensteined together from a plastic eating utensil and a hair-tie, Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) is a spooked spork convinced he’s trash, who despite Woody’s best efforts, causes mayhem whilst repeatedly trying to throw himself away.

Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and her three-headed sheep are back, only now Bo’s a kick-ass heroine, wielding her shepherd’s crook like a light-sabre, and travelling around in a souped-up skunk, as she helps Woody rescue Forky and escape the clutches of Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a broken doll who’s after Woody’s voice-box to replace her own. Cue chases, escapes, wild rides and farcical fun in a story very much focused on Woody, and him learning his worth, despite the fact that kids eventually grow up and put aside their toys.

Josh Cooley’s direction keeps the pace sprightly and the voice cast and animators knock it out the park, with water rendered in the opening scene so beautifully you’d swear it was photography. There’s plenty of family-friendly chuckles and kid-friendly frights from a quartet of spooky ventriloquist dummies. Oh, and stay for the credits, because there are some short scenes, and a cracking final line, delivered by Forky, which, if this turns out to be the final chapter in these stories, will be a fitting and funny farewell to a tale of talking toys, with a great big, soppy, and unapologetically sentimental heart.