This movie was freaking hilarious, and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I expected to chuckle a few times, enjoy the fun action sequences and get teary over the requited Pixar tugs on the old heartstrings and leave feeling nostalgic and warm. Instead, we ended up with a genuinely hilarious screwball comedy with some memorable characters and strangely thought provoking philosophical dilemmas.
Basically, Woody and the gang are back after having been given to little girl Molly after Andy went off to college. Woody is feeling increasingly useless and unwanted, so when Molly makes a new toy out of a fork (Forky) and he flies out the car window on the way to the carnival, he does his utmost to do get Forky back to Molly. On the way, Woody meets up with his old flame Bo Peep, a creepy Gabby Gabby doll who is looking for a new voice box, and a smattering of fun toys from the carnival and antique store.
While there are certainly heartwarming moments, it’s the comedy that makes this one unique. The physical comedy in this is so well done yet somehow so unlikely that it completely blindsided me. There’s literally a scene where Woody and Forky are walking along, Forky keeps falling over and Woody keeps picking him up. It doesn’t sound funny at all, but the entire cinema was in stitches. It reminded me of that iconic sketch in “Not the Nine O’Clock News” where Rowan Atkinson keeps looking into the camera and walks into a pole. It’s so simple that it shouldn’t work but somehow just does.
Key and Peele make genius cameos as two plush toys waiting to be won at a carnie side show and Keanu Reeves nails his one liners as a Canadian Boom Kaboom. The script is quite clearly aimed at adults; kids will still enjoy the heist sequences but a large bulk of the audience will be the people in their mid twenties who saw the original Toy Story when they were six years old. Pixar knows that as the toys have grown and matured, so have we as an audience.
While we all wept like babies when Woody said goodbye to Andy, the goodbyes in this film aren’t as emotional or dramatic because as we grow older, change becomes an expected part of life. Woody himself is lost and confused, because he’s not Andy’s toy anymore and he’s not Bonnie’s either. (I know by the way how wanky it sounds to be talking about the sense of identity of a toy cowboy.)
The only gripe I would have is the Gabby Gabby doll as the villain; she’s far too much like Lotso from Toy Story 3 and is perhaps not as imaginative as she could have been. The bit of the seemingly cute toy that’s secretly psychotic doesn’t work as well the second time round. That’s okay though, this was so damn hilarious that I didn’t mind.
Coming off Toy Story 3, which a lot of people remember as their favourite of the franchise, this was always going to be a tricky one to execute well. If the filmmakers tried to recreate the emotion of the toys leaving Andy, and it fell flat, it would have been mocked mercilessly. Luckily this film is memorable in its own right in a way that the integrity of the previous films still stand. If this is it for Woody and the gang, that’s okay, because they’re moving on, and so are we.
So long Partner.
By Jock Lehman