Beyond the excitement and anticipation that led up to the fourth installment of Pixar’s acclaimed family franchise Toy Story 4, there was a hint of conserved skepticism, whether the film would be as magical as its predecessors.
Almost a decade ago, in Toy Story 3, we were treated to a crowd-pleasing and emotional finale. Andy, the boy who owned Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Time Allen) together with their playtime cohort were all given to a new child, Bonnie. The emotional, narratively rounded end seemed likely to remain a trilogy, but since Hollywood loves producing sequels – here we are discussing about this long-running franchise! Can you believe the first film opened in 1995?
The film opened with a rainy night as we re-engage with the old gang. Suddenly there was this jolt of comfort and nostalgia – like reconnecting with a bunch of long lost friends, especially if you grew up watching the secret lives of these talking toys.
In this script written by Stephany Folsom; Woody, Buzz and the rest of the crew are still living with Bonnie who is about to start kindergarten. Bonnie is often preoccupied with other toys except Woody. He is philosophical about being ignored, and figures that when something new turns up – being the old-timey cowboy toy with an avuncular trait – he’ll be ready for it.
Assuming Bonnie would need a ‘friend’ on orientation day, he sneaked into her backpack and makes it to school. Feeling lonely with no companion, she embraces a new friend in a form of a plastic fork, complete with pipe-cleaner arms, one lopsided eyes, and a waxy mouth. Who would’ve thought that almost a decade after the last Toy Story premiered, a fork (or a spork, to be exact) would be a major new character? Voiced by Tony Hale, the spork named ‘Forky’ is actually pretty cute.
Forky, now comes to life as discovered by Woody while crammed together in Bonnie’s backpack on the way home. Woody introduces him to the whole gang, but he keeps diving into the nearest trash bin as he’s convinced he’s trash and not a toy.
The plot is kicked up a notch once Bonnie and parents set off on a road trip before her official first day of school begins. But since Forky feels out of place, he tries to escape many times and eventually does by jumping out of the moving RV. Knowing how much Bonnie loves Forky, Woody braves himself to find Forky to bring him back to Bonnie.
Woody eventually finds Forky but before they reach Bonnie, the two end up on an unexpected detour in an antique store that becomes the backdrop for most parts of the story. This is where another new character Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) a doll who plans to revitalize herself via Woody, with the help of four extremely creepy Howdy Doody look-alikes come in the picture. Think of it as a toy equivalent plot to harvest an organ out of someone.
As the story evolves, Woody bumps into his long lost friend Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). After years of being on her own, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries. The plot further expands introduces more characters like the conjoined plush buddies energetically voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele together with Keanu Reeves’ motorcycle stuntman who adds more laughter and humour into the whole adventure.
The movie gets into the groove of an action-packed adventure when Gabby takes Forky hostage, turning it into a rescue mission. Will the toys eventually make it back to Bonnie? You’ll have to watch it for yourself.
Quite honestly, if the story were to focus on Bonnie and her world, it would be a little bland. So to have this new set of characters join the fun was a relief.
It’s amazing to witness how much Pixar’s animation has grown to become more lifelike. The animation is visually stunning, and delivers a storyline that doesn’t disappoint. Being Pixar, the film is melancholic, making you feel and question things that are deeper than it is.
With a string of impressive films produced by Pixar before, it’s hard no to expect a great outcome and it’s safe to say, they hit home run for the fourth time.
(Photos courtesy of The Walt Disney Company Malaysia)