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Toy Story 4
  • Composed by Randy Newman
  • Walt Disney / 72m

Every time a new Toy Story sequel is announced, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to pull it off, because every film seems to conclude things perfectly. Somehow, they do pull it off. The fourth film is another triumph – this time seeing Woody coming to terms with no longer being part of a child’s life at the same time as helping Forky, a new kid on the block, coming to terms with being part of it.

Randy Newman’s contribution to these films can’t be overstated – his joyful, tuneful music has enhanced every moment of them. The legendary composer/songwriter contributes another fine score this time round along with a couple of catchy new songs. We start with an old one though – his original recording of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” opens both album and film.

Randy Newman

Then we come to the new songs. Newman sings “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” which is a happy and cheerful melody (with a bit of a gospel feel) which rather disguises the somewhat profound lyrics, as Woody is literally persuading Forky to not throw himself in the trash (as he keeps trying to do). The other one is “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy”, sung by Chris Stapleton, and is just wonderful. At times it very closely resembles Newman’s “Ballad of the Three Amigos” from that film (which is no bad thing). A version of the song sung by Newman appears near the end of the album.

The score opens with “Operation Pull Toy” and immediately there’s a bit of a surprise as the composer revisits quite a long sequence of music from the first film – something that actually happens quite a few time through this score (but wasn’t the case nearly so much in parts two and three). There’s a reason for it, with the film deliberately mirroring the first one but from a different point of view. It’s such good music – bright, colourful, absolutely full of lovely tunes, including the first film’s great cowboy and spaceman themes.

“Woody’s Closet of Neglect” opens cheerfully enough but it underscores the moment when he first realises that he’s no longer the favourite toy and so there’s more than a touch of sadness about the cowboy music this time. The string lament that closes the piece – with just a hint at Woody’s most famous song – is really very touching. That’s got nothing on the piano theme heard in the next cue, “School Daze”, when for the first time in any of these films Newman gets to go into the sort of territory he did so splendidly in films like Avalon and Awakenings earlier in his career. I did use the adjective “joyful” earlier though for a reason, and the piece develops into something quite joyful. Then in “Trash Can Chronicles” the fatherly relationship Woody is developing with Forky gets its own very warm treatment from Newman, including some absolutely delightful writing for winds fluttering happily away.

And so it continues… one delightful piece of exquisite mickey mousing after another, always so musical, always brilliantly performed. Writing music like that, hitting every mark in the film – and on the most basic level, there are just so many notes – while simultaneously projecting the required emotional support is a heck of a thing to do. I know there are some classic cartoon shorts which featured music doing just that – but Newman does it over 90 minute movies, over and over again. Amazing.

Along the way we get the absolutely brilliant “Buzz’s Flight & A Maiden”, the first half of which is built around his heroic theme, the second around a soaring piece of romance. It’s a track which just perfectly embodies what is so great about Newman’s scores for these films.

As we near the end we get lots of exciting action/adventure music associated with the new character Duke Caboom (Canada’s bravest stunt rider) – “Let’s Caboom!” in particular is just great – and then some real heartfelt emotion for the finale, in the magnificent pair of cues “Gabby Gabby’s Most Noble Thing” and particularly “Parting Gifts & New Horizons” (which ends with a little nod to the end of ET, thanks to something that happens in the film).

All of Newman’s Toy Story scores are great and this is no exception. While some might be a bit put off by how much material is reprised from the previous scores this time round (especially the first one), there is plenty of new material as well and frankly I just like hearing that stuff again – it’s like playing with old friends, just as it’s supposed to be. If you like the earlier ones, you really can’t go wrong (and I guess if you didn’t, then you certainly won’t like this one either). Randy Newman is the perfect composer for Pixar movies and while perhaps he won’t do another one, it’s quite a body of work he built up for them over the years.

Rating: **** | |

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