Toy Story 4 (4 stars)

Toy Story 4

Satisfying fourth instalment from Pixar's signature franchise

Pixar's signature franchise is back, nine years after the remarkable Toy Story 3 seemingly rounded off a perfect animated trilogy. Is another outing with Woody, Buzz and the other talking toys one step too far? In the hands of most Hollywood studios, the answer would be yes, but the Pixar team finds a way to further the story, introduce some fine new characters and leave us with a satisfying, tear-jerker of a conclusion.

Now owned by young Bonnie, Woody (voiced, as ever, by Tom Hanks) finds he's no longer the favourite toy. But, after sneaking himself into her backpack to join her at kindergarten, he finds a new purpose: protecting Forky (Tony Hale), a new toy Bonnie makes from pipe-cleaners, sticks and a plastic spork. When the family goes on a road trip, Woody has his work cut out, and it doesn't help when he encounters Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a lonely doll left gathering dust in an antique store.

Directed by Josh Cooley, making his feature debut after years in the Pixar factory, this latest instalment isn't quite as gut-wrenching as its predecessor; it'll leave you misty-eyed rather than sobbing. But the script, from Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom, still operates like clockwork – as Woody attempts to rescue Forky from a store, with the help of old friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and a Canadian stunt rider named Duke Caboom (an excellent Keanu Reeves).

Since it's more of a Woody-driven story, there's less chance for the Tim Allen-voiced Buzz Lightyear to shine this time round – some choice moments at a local funfair aside. And, disappointingly, those cute green aliens barely get a look-in. Mostly though, Cooley pulls off a smart balancing act: there's ample screen-time for both old characters and new, as well as equal emphasis on action and story, humour and emotion. In a medium where fourth outings are often best forgotten, thankfully, this can hold its plastic squeaky head up high alongside its older Toy Story siblings.

General release from Fri 21 Jun.

Toy Story 4

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 40min
  • U
  • Directed by: Josh Cooley
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, Michael Keaton, Jeff Pidgeon, Kristen Schaal, Bonnie Hunt, Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Laurie Metcalf, Lori Alan
  • UK release: 21 June 2019

Woody (Tom Hanks) joins new owner Bonnie at kindergarten where he finds a new purpose in protecting her improvised toy Forky (Hale). Pixar manages to further the story with fine new characters and a satisfyingly teary conclusion, for a fine last chapter in the saga.