TOY STORY 4 gets 6.5/10 A fork in the road

Directed by Josh Cooley

Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale, Christina Hendricks, Annie Potts, Keanu Reeves


Following on from what most folks call a perfect trilogy, the fourth instalment in the Toy Story series has a lot to live up to, but unfortunately, it falls short trying to similarly capture the awe, excitement, ingenuity, and emotional impact of the previous three.

The heads at Pixar claimed they would never make a Toy Story 4 unless they had a fantastic idea – and it’s not easy to point to where exactly this fantastic idea is. Andy’s toys are now enjoying a new life with young Bonnie, except for Woody (Tom Hanks), who finds himself spending most time in the closet collecting dust-bunnies. But he finds an obligation to his owner’s well-being when she creates her own toy, Forky (Tony Hale), and has to continually stop this existentially conflicted new friend from throwing himself in the trash where he thinks he belongs.

The introduction of this homemade toy works well at continuing the maturity of the Toy Story themes, showing Woody now acting as a father figure to this confused child-like piece of trash trying to find meaning in his brand new sentience. But when Bonnie and her family go on a family trip, and Forky goes AWOL during their quick stop at a carnival, it’s up to Woody and the gang to save him – though actually it’s mostly just Woody, as the likes of Mr Potato Head, Slinky, Hamm and Rex just stay in the minivan and worry.

Pixar seemed to have peaked artistically around the time the last Toy Story film was released (nine years ago, feel old yet?). This new one is in a bit of a slump for them among other not-so-great sequels like Monsters University, Finding Dory, and Incredibles 2. Toy Story 4 feels disconnected in this series because of the lack of humour and character in the script – the “adventure” is always on the move, though there’s hardly much adventure when the little characters are simply going back and forth between the carnival and the antique store across the road.

There are at least a handful of moments that prove Pixar haven’t entirely lost their sense of humour – the introduction of stunt-man toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) adds a funny Québécois perspective to the toy abandonment theme, and Woody telling Buzz (Tim Allen) to “find his inner voice” leads to a great set of recurring gags.

As is expected, Toy Story 4 ends on the emotional note, one that does thoroughly advance the journey these miniature characters have gone through over the generations, now to start a new adventure. It’s a fitting end to the series, though also feels likely that the heads of Pixar will reveal “hey, now we have a fantastic idea for Toy Story 5.” Like Duke Caboom, this latest entry in the series makes an impressive leap of faith, but ultimately crashes rather than lands.