“I was made to help a child, I don’t remember it being this hard.”
Toy Story 3 remains to this day the perfect film. It’s sweet, funny, utilises each and every one of its wonderful characters and delivers an emotionally impactful conclusion to Woody, Buzz and the gang’s adventure. Which begs the question: can Toy Story 4 truly justify its existence? Well in a word, yes. And it does so thanks to Woody’s own exploration of this very issue; what purpose does he serve when his child no longer needs him? It’s an existential crisis that seeps into each of the toys that take the lead this time around. With new additions Forky (Tony Hale), a spork unwillingly forced into life as a toy, and Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), an antagonistic doll who longs for nothing more than to be played with. And with Woody (Tom Hanks), who after years as his child’s favourite finds himself relegated to the closet.
This is a Woody-centric tale, his final ride off into the sunset. And though his bittersweet reflection on life wraps up his journey neatly, I couldn’t help but miss the rest of the gang, who take the backseat for large parts. Buzz, in particular, feels secondary more than ever before, and the lighter touch brought by the likes of Hamm and Rex certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss in the otherwise fairly heavy middle third. Still, though it doesn’t strike the balance between its ensemble as well as its predecessors, there can be no qualms about its emotional intelligence. As is customary for Pixar, it goes right for the heart and hits the bullseye every time.
Rating (out of 5):