Published: 15:36, 18 June 2019
| Updated: 15:36, 18 June 2019
As Toy Story 4 reaches cinemas across Kent this week, Damon Smith reviews the fourth - and final - instalment.
How do you improve on the perfection of Toy Story 3, which bade a moving farewell to Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the others from Andy’s childhood?
Oscar-winning computer animation studio Disney Pixar comes tantalisingly close with a belated rip-roaring fourth instalment that will have parents dabbing at their eyes with almost as many sodden handkerchiefs as its predecessors.
Admittedly, popular characters like Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Rex (Wallace Shawn) are largely sidelined by a plot that borrows heavily from past glories. Director Josh Cooley’s hare-brained rescue mission was always going to disappoint after the note-perfect resolution to the third film.
What this glorious episode might surrender in originality it compensates for with visual artistry, uproarious verbal sparring and deep sentiment.
The fractious central relationship between Woody and Buzz, which stretches back almost 25 cinema-going years, reaches a gorgeous, heart-rending crescendo that closes this toy box of wonders with a soft and satisfying emotional thud.
Woody, Buzz and the gang are now the property of Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), who is nervously preparing for kindergarten orientation.The tearful tyke overcomes her nerves by creating Forky (Tony Hale) from discarded arts and crafts supplies. The repurposed plastic utensil becomes Bonnie’s security blanket during a family road trip to Grand Basin, which lights the touch paper on more than one existential crisis.
When Forky falls into the clutches of sinister doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her army of ventriloquist dummies, Woody co-ordinates a daring rescue. Reunited with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and her three-headed porcelain sheep Billy, Goat and Gruff, there’s also a new ally in self-doubting motorcycle stuntman Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves).
Meanwhile, Buzz stalls for time by delaying the departure of Bonnie and her parents. “We could frame Dad for a crime so he goes to jail,” suggests unicorn Buttercup (Jeff Garlin).
Toy Story 4 opens with a lustrous flashback set that epitomises the immaculate attention to detail in every frame of animation. Vocal performances complement the technical excellence and Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are shameless scene-stealers as megalomaniacal fairground prizes.
The script quietly preaches the beauty of imperfection between breathlessly staged action set-pieces and visual gags, which demand a second viewing.
“You can’t teach this old toy new tricks,” sagely observes Woody.
True, but when the old tricks work beautifully, the wizards at Disney Pixar can still cast an irresistible spell.
* Toy Story 4 is out in cinemas across Kent on Friday, June 21.
More by this authorAngela Cole