'Toy Story 4' sees Woody & the gang leave the big screen in style
The fourth, and hopefully final, instalment of the 'Toy Story' franchise is a fitting, genuinely moving and emotionally honest end to a 24-year journey
For 24 years Woody, Buzz and the gang of hard-to-hate Pixar animated toys have made regular appearances in our lives to provide us with smart, gently humorous reminders of good wholesome values like friendship and loyalty and how to let go of small things without losing sight of your bigger purpose.
At the end of 2010's third instalment of the Toy Story franchise, it seemed that the bittersweet end of the gang's relationship with their owner Andy and their arrival at a new home provided a fitting close to the story.
It was a Puff, the Magic Dragon-style tale of how little boys grow up and leave childish things behind - but there are plenty of children in the world ready for old toys to teach them new tricks.
A cynic might initially see Disney's release of a fourth film in the franchise as a cheap ploy to mine cash from new audiences and nostalgic older fans, but it turns out that Toy Story 4 is the promised final instalment that we never knew we needed.
It's heartfelt, funny, moving and has a good dose of dark creepiness that might be a bit too much for the very young but just enough sly knowing recognition for the adults to enjoy.
The end of Toy Story 3 saw the culmination of their journey with Andy, who packed up for college and gave his beloved playmates to the enthusiastic and willing young Bonnie.
Without spoiling things too much, it's enough to say that things are different under the new regime and Woody (Tom Hanks) is feeling the pinch.
Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang are generally happy in their new surroundings but when Bonnie creates a new toy made out of a "spork" and gives him the practical, if less than imaginative moniker of Forky (Tony Hale), Woody finds new purpose in dedicating himself to ensuring the protection of his owner's most beloved toy.
It's a commitment that will see the gang undertake their craziest and most visually spectacular adventure yet: taking them to a carnival, an antique store complete with creepy ventriloquist dummies and wooden dolls, and introduce them to an exhilarating and well-realised cast of new characters.
It also sees them reuniting with some old friends, making some new ones and allowing adult viewers to find small pleasures in seeing some of their favourite actors make appearances, from Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Keene to Keanu Reeves.
On the one hand this is Forky's story and in spite of his seemingly ridiculous premise as a toy made out of trash by a girl in kindergarten, the Pixar team in collaboration with Hale's voice work make him a genuine, well-rounded and ultimately endearing character.
The struggle between his identity as trash and his new uninvited obligations as a toy offer plenty of opportunities for relatable life lessons delivered with suitably well-written and endearing humanity.
The struggle between Forky's identity as trash and his new uninvited obligations as a toy offer plenty of opportunities for relatable life lessons
On the other side, this is also the final part of the story of Woody, whose dedication to the underlying commandments of the world of the toys has driven the story over the series and who here is forced to make a choice that will see him decide whether he's always just going to service the ideology of toy world or finally do something for himself.
Ultimately, Toy Story 4 offers a fitting, genuinely moving and emotionally honest end to a journey that's offered so much to so many over its 24-year run.
One can only hope that this will be the last outing for Woody, Buzz and the gang. They go out in style and with plenty of honest and easily relatable reminders for all of us about what it means to try our best to be as good as possible to each other and ourselves.
Toy Story is still one of the most perfectly realised and cohesive franchises in recent movie history.
• 'Toy Story 4' is currently on circuit.