June 17, 2019

CINEMA | Pixar and 'Toy Story 4' Make New Friends

"Kids lose their toys every day."
Tom Hanks Tim Allen Josh Cooley | Disney Pixar | Toy Story 4

Midway through Toy Story 4, Tom Hanks' Woody has another heartfelt speech about the importance of protecting and bringing joy to children that's a very clear allegory for parenthood and is just as crushing as it sounds. Pixar Animation finds a convincing reason to return to the world of toys for a fairly streamlined, heist-style epilogue to the series with a surprisingly existential twist about the sentience of beings.

Directed by longtime Pixar storyboard artist Josh Cooley in his feature directorial debut, this new Toy Story feels more like a spin-off or side story with most of the original toys from previous stories sidelined for a more standalone adventure set in different locations outside the bedroom.

Thankfully, Annie Potts's Bo Peep returns and anchors the film alongside Woody and the bizarre metaphysical creation of Forky (ably voiced by Tony Hale). Peep's inclusion after being previously written off is a nice metaphor for Pixar's previous failings in treating its (lack of) strong female characters while Forky offers some surprisingly deep themes of existential dread.

This time around, Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear is wisely relegated to more of a sidekick trying aid Woody's rescue mission. However, plenty of new welcome characters come in to flesh out the always deep themes of childhood wonder. Comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a nice addition with a welcome buddy comedy schtick. They voice stuffed animal carnival prizes that join Woody and Beau's team of lost toy bandits.

Tom Hanks Annie Potts Josh Cooley | Disney Pixar | Toy Story 4

Most of the action takes place in and around an antique shop and small town carnival full of new offbeat characters. There are some deeply creepy additions including Christina Hendricks as unnerving Gabby Gabby doll who leads an army of truly frightening ventriloquist dolls that do her bidding. Another fun new element comes in the form of Keanu Reeves's exuberant Canadian stuntman toy, Duke Kaboom.

Pixar's continued penchant to creating new characters and situations that mirror real-life difficult experiences of growing up and moving is never more obvious than in the fourth entry of their 24-year-old film series. Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton's script really focuses on the toy adventures and doubles down on the themes of the previous films while wrapping the film's story into a series of escapes and heists that are visually inventive

Pixar continues to reinvent its flagship franchise's formula as Toy Story 4 proves to be a worthy, exciting sequel with a fresh new premise the evolves the longstanding series' string of parental themes. If you thought Toy Story 3 had a perfect, bittersweet ending, it's hard to imagine a more fitting sendoff than this with its thematic and rather definite conclusion. It definitely feels like a true finale.


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