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  Toy Story 4 The Philosophy Of Play
Year: 2019
Director: Josh Cooley
Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nine years ago, Andy's toys got in from a day out, or at least most of them did, for there was a toy car that was accidentally abandoned in the gutter and the head plaything, cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), took it upon himself to rescue him. He could not do it without help, and corralled others to assist, including Andy's little sister's nightlight, a Bo Peep figurine (Annie Potts), who provided sterling support, but the drama was not over as she was scooped up and placed in a cardboard box with her sheep. Woody offered to rescue her, but she knew her time was up in that house and bid him a fond farewell, leaving the cowboy to consider the one who got away...

Toy Story was, of course, the introduction to not only Pixar's computer animated features, but the whole world of those efforts as they swamped traditional cartooning and stop motion to become the default mode of such things as the technology grew cheaper. From the first instalment to its third, the studio kept upping the ante, with the result that Toy Story 3 could easily be regarded as their masterpiece, which then begged the question, with a trilogy that perfect, why bother producing a fourth? The cynics could observe that these were very profitable in a way that something like The Good Dinosaur had not been, but that was to sell the animators short.

With such a beloved series as Toy Story, there was no way those involved would have wished to stomp all over their legacy if they did not have something valid to say, and were confident they could approach it in such a manner as to not sully the memories of what had, in the third, enjoyed one of the most perfect endings in all of Hollywood cinema. When Toy Story 4 was released, it predictably became one of the biggest movies of the year, but the reception was by no means one of universal praise, which you could also predict given how attached audiences young and old had grown to be to these classics, as standards had been extremely high and they had far to fall.

Therefore, with that in mind, and also bearing in mind how grim Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 had gotten in among the laughs and flights of fancy, it may be no great shock to learn the formula was more or less intact here. This was the most psychological of the quartet, exploring the relationship between children and their toys which, as the toys are actually alive in this conceit, opens them up to all sorts of anxieties and depressions. Mental health had transformed into a hot button topic over the decades Pixar had been around, and they had tackled the issues directly with Inside Out, which appeared to have affected the style of this as the toys adopt parental and child roles in their connection to their owner, Woody especially wanting to ensure Bonnie is not unhappy, to the point of obsession.

The toys are goodhearted in that they want nothing more than to keep the kids content, but with that comes a neediness so that when they are left in the cupboard, or eventually left behind completely, it is a terrible, wrenching emotional break for them, and that is what many parents would be feeling when their offspring grew up and became their own people. So Woody was a stand-in for every mother and father who had to accept they had to move on and get their own life back now the kids had their own lives to lead, another example of this series meaning far more as you grew older - in its curious manner, these films grew with you, and meant different things depending on what age you were watching at. Rest assured, there were some very funny gags, the plot justified itself against the odds and voice casting that sounded like agents were keen to get their talent a Pixar gig so they did them all in one go, and if it was not quite as profound as the previous entry, it had a clearer view of childhood and the need for validation that comes with it than perhaps was comfortable. All that and references to The Shining, truly the Toy Story pictures were a cut above. Music by Randy Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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