mon 20/05/2024

Toy Story 4 review - fabulous return to the big screen | reviews, news & interviews

Toy Story 4 review - fabulous return to the big screen

Toy Story 4 review - fabulous return to the big screen

To infinity and a blonde...reappearance of Woody's sweetheart takes story in a different direction

The gang's all here; Annie Potts voices Bo Peep and is reunited with Tom Hanks as Woody

Making it to the fourth film in a series and maintaining quality is a feat pulled off by very few franchises, (see last week’s dreary Men in Black: International). But Pixar has done it with Toy Story 4.

It might not have quite as many nifty gags without its originator John Lasseter at the helm, but the quality of animation has reached new heights and the story reduced me both to tears and helpless laughter. 

The original Toy Story was the first animation feature created entirely digitally; almost 25 years later computer technology has made another huge leap forward. The opening sequence in which Woody and his friends rescue a toy abandoned in a torrential downpour, is a masterpiece of digital artistry; creating realistic rain and water is one of the hardest effects to achieve and here it’s almost indistinguishable from live action footage. 

The story arc is familiar – the toys want to keep their young owner Bonnie happy, fret about obsolescence and face assorted perils in the world outside the playroom. But Hollywood’s new sensitivity about harassment (which led to Lasseter parting with Pixar) and desire to break gender stereotypes means that Woody’s love interest in the first film, porcelain shepherdess Bo Peep has been given a far more dynamic role. Last seen briefly in Toy Story 2, Bo returns here as a main character. She has been living independently and offers Woody an alternative to his child-centred world. Shrugging off her hooped skirt, Bo is something of an action hero and pulls off impressive stunts in her big blue bloomers. There’s a new female antagonist too, in the shape of Gabby-Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks), a baby doll languishing in a creepy antiques store, unwanted because her voice mechanism is broken. She has designs on Woody’s string-pull and her henchmen, a handful of silent ventriloquist dummies are impressively baleful, evoking memories of the puppets in Dead of Night and Magic with their swivelling eyes, slack jaws and sinister gait. The antique store isn’t quite as scary as the incinerator that threatened to consume the toys in Toy Story 3 and led to countless nightmares (and parents cursing Pixar), but it’s close.

There are plenty of new male characters too and for the first time a toy that doesn’t come off a production line. Bonnie, lonely on her first day at kindergarten, makes Forky, out of a plastic spork and a pipe cleaner. Forky struggles with his new identity, "I was made for soup and salad - maybe chilli and then the TRASH". Woody and pals have to teach him to be a toy devoted to his creator - and keep him out of the rubbish. Keanu Reeves generously lends his voice and quirky persona to Duke Caboom, a stunt motorbike action figure who isn’t the sharpest toy in the box. 

Funniest for older kids and adults are Ducky and Bunny (above), two plush toy prizes at a funfair voiced by Jordan Peele (creator of Get Out and Us) and his sketch show partner Michael-Keegan Key. The contrast between Ducky and Bunny’s cuddly exteriors and their badinage, which is all about their desire to commit ultra-violent acts of revenge, is perfectly calibrated. Staying put through the end credits to watch their ‘omitted’ scenes provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

The opening sequence featuring a torrential downpour, is a masterpiece of digital artistry


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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