By Ben Thompson
Toy Story 4 is the latest addition to the Toy Story franchise – set to be one of the most critically acclaimed film franchises of all time – this latest addition is by all merits a good film. Its jokes were consistently funny, its animation was vibrant and a testament to the hard work of the animators, and the sentimental scenes hit the mark (I may or may not have had tears in my eyes at certain points…) The more I dwell on the film, however, the more conflicted I become.
The film follows Woody and the gang in their lives with their new owner, Bonnie. On her first day in Kindergarten, she makes a ‘friend’ – that is, a spork with googly eyes, popsicle stick feet and pipe cleaner arms who she names Forky, and who quickly becomes her new favourite toy. However, Forky doesn’t want to be a child’s toy and constantly longs to be back with the rubbish from whence he came. Eventually, he tosses himself out of the family vehicle during a road trip, and Woody heads after him.
Along the way, Woody and Forky encounter new characters – Gabby Gabby, a 1950s doll with a defective voice box, Duke Caboom, a stuntman action figure with a ‘troubled past’, and Bunny and Ducky, two fluffy plush toys who have spent years as prizes to be won at a carnival event. The most significant character, however, is Bo Peep the shepherdess, Woody’s love interest, who was written out of the series between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. Her return was welcomed by fans, as her fate had previously been left ambiguous. I must admit that it took me a while to adjust to the new version of Bo Peep, having grown up with the more demure character of the original films. The fact that her personality has shifted into a more dominant and assertive role is suitable, however, considering what she went through…
While undoubtedly well made and interesting, the reason this film provokes a complicated response for me is that I can’t help but feel that it invalidates Toy Story 3. That film felt like a grand finale, this one doesn’t. Outside of Woody and Buzz, the other toys get shafted into background roles – even Jessie only has a few notable scenes.
Ultimately, Toy Story 4 is a great movie and well worth watching for fans of the series, but I can’t help but feel that other people will dwell on the film for too long, and it may spoil their appreciation for the series in some ways. Then again, perhaps most people don’t overthink films – particularly films belong to a children’s franchised consumed by adults primarily for the sake of nostalgia. It may well be that most people will take this movie for what it is – a funny, aesthetically pleasing and well written film.