It’s the battle of the toys in Hong Kong this week with two new films about the much-loved items opening today. I’ve already reviewed CHILD’S PLAY (2019); now it’s time to discuss TOY STORY 4. (Another doll film, ANNABELLE COMES HOME, opened here last week and is still in the cinemas.)
What is a toy? That’s the existential question posed in this latest entry in the hugely popular Pixar franchise that began 24 years ago and has so far gone on to win three Oscar awards and taken in just under US$2 billion at the box office. In TOY STORY 4, Woody and friends have gone on to new lives after being donated by now grown-up Andy to young Bonnie. Everyone seems happy with their new situation except perhaps Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), who is a bit neglected but he has sets his sights on the bigger picture — guiding Bonnie so that she has the happiest childhood possible. On the girl’s kindergarten orientation day, Woody hides in her backpack to be there for her in case she needs comforting. Like most kids her age, Bonnie finds that whole experience a bit daunting so, when she’s not looking, Woody dives into the class’ garbage can and pulls out some items, leaving them in front of her chair. With a disposable spork, a pipe cleaner, some plasticine and few other bits and bobs, Bonnie puts together a handmade toy that she names “Forky”. Bonnie enjoys the experience, which makes Woody happy but Forky (voiced by Tony Hale, TV’s VEEP and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) has a huge problem wrapping his spiky, plastic head around the idea that he could be a toy and not trash. The family then goes on a vacation and Bonnie takes Forky and the other toys along, but at the first opportunity Forky jumps out their RV’s window in search of a garbage can where he believes he belongs. Woody decides that he must bring Forky back to Bonnie at all costs, and that sets off an adventure for the whole gang involving reuniting with an old friend, making some new friends, and Woody challenging himself and the others in ways they’ve never been challenged before.
Like all the films in this franchise, TOY STORY 4 is a story for all ages. There are jokes and situations that only adults who ever said goodbye to their most cherished toy would understand. (A few months ago I gave away some ultra-cute animal hand puppets I’ve had for eons. I’ll admit that it hurt! I hope they’re happy in their new home.) For kids, this is a bittersweet but warm-hearted story about loyalty, teamwork and finding your purpose in life.
As we have come to expect with Pixar, the animation is superb. A large part of the film’s second act takes place in an antique store that is crammed full of old toys and other memorabilia. The attention to detail, complete with dust on both the shelves and the items, is truly astounding. Eagle-eyed viewers will enjoy all the Easter eggs with most of them, not surprisingly, involving other Disney property. Of course, being a Disney film, we’re introduced to a number of new characters that factories in China and Vietnam have been busy over the past six months making plush and plastic replicas of for a wanting consumer society. A couple of standouts include Duke Caboom (appropriately voiced by Keanu Reeves), a Canadian daredevil stuntman, and Gabby Gabby (voiced with sugary ice by Christina Hendricks, TV’s MAD MEN), a ’60s-era Chatty Cathy-type doll that rules the store’s roost.
TOY STORY 4 is an absolute delight. I took my neighbours’ kids (ages 8 and 6) to see it with me and we all loved it. (It was their first time at a press screening and they were super impressed. They now think I’m famous!) Definitely go see it!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, July 19th at 8:30 am HK time!
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