Toy Story 4 - the missing chapter
In an age when there are so many sequels and prequels, I approached Toy Story 4 with some trepidation. I mean, the original trilogy which started with John Lasseter's first Toy Story in 1995 was near perfect. It's hard to think of a previous cinematic trilogy that moved the story forward, maintained excellent standards, grew with us as we grew and pulled the heartstrings of young and old.
I need not have been worried. John Lasseter is back, together with a host of talented screen-writers, to bring us a new and yet essential story from the world of Andy and Bonnie, Woody and Buzz, the Potato Heads, Slinky, Bo-Peep, RC and so many other favourite characters.
This is the first cinematic debut from director Josh Cooley who has directed video shorts to date. He is no stranger to the Pixar word having lent his acting talents to previous Pixar films. So he is clearly comfortable and familiar in the world of toys that come to life when the humans are not looking. He delivers here, in spades.
One assumes at this stage that everyone on the planet has seen one or all of the Toy Story films and is familiar with the characters. The seeds of this story were sown in the 1995 original. In case you had forgotten, there is a pre-title sequence from nine years ago (in cinema time) in which Woody, Buzz and the toys have a mini-adventure rescuing RC from an unfortunate incident. I felt it was an unnecessary sequence as I knew these characters. However, once the title sequence began and Randy Newman's title song began I settled back into my seat, comfortable and safe in this world.
In the closing scenes of Toy Story 3 we saw Andy hand over his childhood toys to his sister Bonnie. Time moves on and Bonnie is going to kindergarten. There she makes a toy from a spork and some pipe-cleaners and names it "Forky". Voiced by Tony Hale, Forky is having a bit of an existential crisis; not sure if he's a toy or trash and the first Act is wrapped up in this story line. In order to resolve it, the film uses the old cinematic trope of a road trip, in which anything can happen. The second Act is a delight, with wonder and terror in an Antiques Shop. I'll say no more. But then the third Act comes along and the film turns again and, I for one, was taken by surprise as I went "Oh, that's what the film is about". I should have seen it coming but I had relaxed and placed myself into the hands of the Pixar team and our heroic toy friends. They played with me and I enjoyed it.
I laughed out loud. I cried at the end. I enjoyed it immensely. Yes, there is nostalgia and that gets the film so far but it is the story that keeps us engaged. I've no doubt that this will be in my top ten films of 2019 when it comes to the end of the year.
The secret heart of this film is that it is the first of the Toy Story films to feature the toys. It is a true toy story.
Go see this, and see a clever, heart-warming, existential, funny film. Go see it on a big screen with a big crowd and share this joy.