Are they past their play dates? by Richard Jones

A look at Toy Story 4 (G)


What to do with four granddaughters aged between 14 and eight during the school holidays?

Why, take them to a general release movie even though the cinema is likely to be packed out.

That’s what we did mid-week as the second term vacation was winding down. “Let’s go to Toy Story 4,” said the middle two so as it was a rainy afternoon it seemed like a great recommendation.

But the idea had obviously caught on with dozens and dozens of other parents and grandparents as we stood in a burgeoning queue waiting to buy tickets and the mandatory ice creams.

But it was worth it.

Floppy pullstring plaything Woody (Tom Hanks) is not only the leader of all the toys in his child’s bedroom but also the protector of the child who owns him. Things begin to look a bit dark for the toys when toddler Bonnie heads off to start kindergarten. The hierarchy among the toys starts to wobble as Woody’s pre-eminence looks like it could be undermined by Forky, a stick figure Bonnie has fashioned at kinder.

Forky (Tony Hale) is a plastic fork rescued from the waste bin, given two pipe cleaner arms and two mismatched eyes from the toy cupboard. It’s up to Woody and the others to make Forky feel at home, a task made more onerous by the new toy’s desire to live out his time on earth in the dustbin.

But all this is put aside when Bonnie and her parents head off in a campervan for summer holidays, with the toys safely packed into a hamper.

In the town where they stop for a few days Woody comes across his lost love Bo Peep (Annie Potts) who is housed in a massive antique shop.  To Woody’s complete amazement Bo Peep tells her astounded friend that she and her sheep (‘the three girls’) have been on their own for a long stretch.

They’ve been living in a glass-fronted cupboard as lost toys and Bo Peep announces that they’ve never been happier.

Even though his new owner Bonnie is half-hearted about him the central toy is sure he could never feel the same way. And there are other secrets to be uncovered in the antique shop. In one shadowy corner lives Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) a tricky, rather mischievous doll with a tremendous desire to call ‘home’ somewhere in a child’s toy box. She’s attended by four rather creepy ventriloquist dummies who seem to have Woody’s measure.

Enter Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and a sort of Evel Knievel daredevil motorcyclist Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) who lend Woody and Bo Peep some much-needed assistance. Buzz has a very valuable piece of technical assistance. A three-button attachment on the front of his space suit connects him to mission control so the voice messages allow him to stay one step ahead of impending disaster.

Buzz, Bo Peep and Duke eventually overpower the four sinister ventriloquist dolls, while Gabby Gabby finds love with a tearful little girl in an alleyway off the circus main drag. Woody and Bo Peep declare their love for each other, the toys in the campervan are relieved when Buzz and Woody return after their adventures, but there’s one big, unanswered question.

Will the toys – especially Woody – have the same equanimity as Bo Peep if they’re destined to spend the rest of their time sitting in the toy box or the cupboard.

Maybe it’s retirement time for all of them.

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