It’s a compliment to the series that this is arguably the weakest Toy Story film – but it’s still pretty darn amazing.
Which is a testament to the high standard that Disney/Pixar provided in three five-star movies with the initial trilogy – and this arguably makes it the four best films in any franchise ever made.
That’s because this still retains much of the old magic that has been the staple of the Toy Story diet – complete with another ‘tear in eye’ finale (though not to, ahem, Toy Story 3 level) that makes this another truly satisfying entry.
It actually does have a more ‘spin-off’ feel – almost being the start of a new ‘Bonnie’ (Madeleine McGraw) trilogy – with the three ‘Andy’ led films coming to their natural close with Toy Story 3.
This is further highlighted by Tom Hanks’ cowboy Woody being the only prominent character from the earlier films to star – Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear somewhat supports with Jessie (Joan Allen) and the rest of the toy gang reduced to cameos – in this fresh new take.
With Woody being reduced to a bit-part role in Bonnie’s cupboard, he has to come to the fore when she returns home from her first day at pre-school with a new toy created from arts and crafts called ‘Forky’ (Tony Hale).
The problem is Forky can’t get his head round the fact that he’s Bonnie’s new favourite toy, and keeps heading to the ‘trash’ where he thinks he belongs – having panic attacks about his new role in the world.
So when Bonnie’s family go on holiday (along with all the toys) Woody has to bail from the RV when a stressed Forky jumps out of the window, which sends them both spiralling into a new adventure – mainly centred around Woody’s old love interest Bo Beep (Annie Potts) who’s been living the ‘independent’ life for the past few years.
Along the way several new characters – including carnival soft toys Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), and Christina Hendricks’ antique doll Gabby Gabby and (quite creepy for younger audience members) ventriloquist dummies – welcomingly join proceedings, as Buzz and co lurk in the background attempting to locate Woody and Forky.
And there’s no doubting this has been truly worth the wait – particularly with the heartwarming ending – and deserves similar immense praise (if just a smidgen less) to the 1995, 1999 and 2010 films in the Toy Story pantheon.
Familiarity and a slight deviation from the beloved Andy concept puts this into ‘extremely solid’ four-star instead of ‘sensational’ five star territory – but this is still essential animation viewing for kids and parents alike.
And if Pixar still wants to keep telling these stories every decade or so for generations to come – long may it continue as this still hits the bullseye.
ESP Rating: 4/5
VOICE CAST: TOM HANKS, TIM ALLEN, ANNIE POTTS, TONY HALE, CHRISTINE HENDRICKS, KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY, JORDAN PEELE, KEANU REEVES, JOAN CUSACK, MADELEINE McGRAW, BONNIE HUNT, JAY HERNANDEZ, WALLACE SHAWN, BLAKE CLARKE, JEFF GARLIN, CARL WEATHERS, JOHN RATZENBERGER & DON RICKLES
RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 40 MINS
DIRECTOR: JOSH COOLEY
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