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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019: Toy Story 4

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Being born in 1997, I was a fortunate child. Toy Story was released two years earlier in 1995 and a VHS release meant that it was practically right there at my fingertips straight out of the womb. While I’d need to wait two whole years for the release of Toy Story 2, I had a lot to take my mind off of it in the meantime – such as sucking my thumb and learning how to walk.

As a child, I felt an immediate connection with the characters and come Toy Story 3, I was ready to join Andy’s gang of toys on another adventure. They weren’t just Andy’s toys, they were mine (and every other fan’s) too.

So naturally, when Pixar released a teaser poster with the number 4 on it in that famous font, I was excited but also wary at the same time. The world said goodbye to the toys already and revisiting the franchise posed a risk of ruining that in more ways than one. But there was only one way to find out…

Toy Story 4 starts off with a flashback to the night that Bo Beep was given away – finally giving us closure on what really happened to her character.

From the get-go, the animation is simply amazing. Hardly a surprise for Pixar, but the improvements it can make within animation in the space of a year is incredible. It’s almost photorealistic.

After the pre-title card sequence, the rest of the story follows the gang in their new life as the playthings of their new owner, Bonnie. On her first day of kindergarten, Bonnie creates a new toy out of trash, thus creating Forky. Not knowing, who, why or what he is, Forky goes through an existential crisis and continuously attempts to throw himself back in the trash. Knowing he must do whatever it takes to keep Bonnie happy, Woody must go to immeasurable lengths to make sure that Forky doesn’t succeed, but when Forky jumps out of a moving RV during a road trip, things become even more difficult for Woody.

Continually looking after Forky is exhausting enough, but Forky’s existential crisis gives light to Woody’s own midlife crisis. He is not as important to Bonnie as he was to Andy and he doesn’t get played with anywhere near as much as he used to, nor is he in charge anymore. Keeping Bonnie happy at all costs is his way of dealing with it in the only way he knows how.

It may sound like an earnest story for a movie for children, but there’s a lot of fun and enjoyment to be found in it.

One of the enjoyable elements is the addition of new characters to the Toy Story universe in the form of:

  • Doom Caboom (a hilarious Canadian stuntman, voiced by Keanu Reeves, who suffers from a severe lack of confidence due to his inability to live up to his TV Adverts)
  • Ducky and Bunny (a pair of carnival prizes, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who host sadistic thoughts underneath their fluffy exteriors)

The new characters mean there’s less screen time for the original gang, but they more than make up for it with some hilarious antics (possibly some of the funniest of the whole series). But along with them is the new and improved version of one of the original gang: Bo Beep.

She’s transformed into a total badass similar to Ellen Ripley or Laurie Strode. Years in the wilderness as a lost toy having brought forward this new side of Bo. Bo’s new outlook on life mixed with Woody’s midlife crisis causes Woody to reevaluate his own life and meaning, allowing Pixar to craft possibly its most mature movie to date.

Toy Story 4 was worrying, as it may have ruined the already perfect trilogy, but it’s safe to say it doesn’t disappoint. It appears more like an extra adventure than a new addition of an ongoing story. It may not connect in the same way that the previous three have, but the franchise will continue to be as highly regarded as it always has been, some of which is thanks to this movie.

Did we need this movie? No.

But it’s no harm to the series and polishes off some of the sharper edges of the franchise. Once again, it’ll have audiences in tears, whether that be from sadness or joy.

4/5

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