June 20, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

toystory31_largeThere is something about Pixar films that makes each one a must see event. Ever since they debuted way back in 1995 with the original Toy Story they have not made a bad movie yet. Yes, some are better than others, but by and large their movies do something that few others have been able to match. Pixar films have that blend of comedy, heart, adventure, and fun that you do not see everyday. Toy Story 3 is no different. In fact it may be the funniest films they've released, it is also one of their darker films.

Toy Story 3 is the perfect closure to a trilogy that sprang to life 15 years ago. The first two films chronicled the adventures of a group of toys and their beloved owner and their efforts to remain united. They were great stories that everyone could enjoy and relate to. This third go around is slightly different in that it finds the toys left more or less on their own.

Andy is all grown up and getting ready to head off to college. This move has Andy facing the age-old mother/son question/ultimatum: clean your room and decide what is going with you, what goes in the attic, and what gets thrown out/donated. It is something that Andy does not want to deal with, but must. This development also leaves the toys in a panic. Their numbers have dwindled over the years down to a select core and they are desperately worried for their futures.


It is a dark development for the playthings. Think about their sole purpose. Toys exist only to be played with, otherwise they are trash waiting to happen. So, with what they overhear from Andy and others in the house, the toys decide to take their futures into their own hands. When they believe they are about to be thrown out, they sneak into the donation box. They believe this is the right way to go as they will be going to daycare where there will always be children to play with them.

With a few twists along the way, they find themselves welcomed at the daycare center by the toys that are already there. While they are getting themselves acquainted with their new surroundings, Woody has a different outlook. He is ever the Andy die hard with a different understanding of his purpose. It is not to merely be a toy and be played with but to be a toy and be there for his owner when he is needed. Rather selfless attitude for a toy whose attitude should almost by default be one of self centeredness that requires near constant attention.

Toy Story 3 finds the humans relegated even further to the fringe than the first films, accentuating the growing divide between the rapidly maturing Andy and his childhood playthings. The toys struggle to find renewed purpose. This provides the central struggle of the film with Woody taking the pro-Andy side and everyone else, including Buzz, are in favor of moving on and finding ways to feed their need to be played with.


That struggle to find new purpose is a sad one. Think about what it would be like to see your reason for being slowly fade away, leaving you forgotten and alone. It is not a happy thought. It is no wonder that the toys are worried about their future and are looking for ways to avoid becoming landfill.

Of course, no journey to change is without its obstacles. Life in the daycare turns out to be a little different from what they were expecting. This leads to separation, reunion, and an ultimate fight to return to their chosen reason for being. Of course, despite the rather sad push behind the story, their is plenty of room for adventure, comedy, and a lot of fun (for the audience, the toys may not consider their trials to be all that fun).

As good as this movie is, I cannot help but feel that it is just a little bit lacking. Of course, a lacking Pixar film is worlds better than most out there. When I walked out I did not have the same "WOW" factor that I did upon leaving their last three (Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up). I left with a smile on my face, not because the film blew me away, it was more like visiting with old friends. The guys were all there, they were just as I left them following Toy Story 2. By that token, they seem to have drifted a bit away from the characters, relying more heavily on jokes and action to carry us through. In a way I do not blame them, these characters have been ingrained in our consciousness through the first two albums, I am not sure where else they could take them. Still, it felt a touch lacking in that department.


More than a stand alone film, this feels like closure (which I hope it will be) to the Toy Story arc and a big thank you to the fans. We get to spend some time with beloved characters as they move onto the next stage of their lives. It is sad, it is happy, it has heart, and it may make some of you tear up. Is it the best of the series? No, I think that crown will sit with the first film. This film is still a pleaser.

I love some of the bits like Spanish Buzz, the fashion show with Barbie and Ken, the Mr. Tortilla-head, and sequence at the landfill. Some of the new characters are quite good including Lotso the bear, who has an interesting arc, Chatter Telephone, and my favorite new character is Big Baby. Seriously, the baby doll may have no lines, but he is seriously creepy and has a great moment towards the end of act 2.

Bottomline. Well, it is not my favorite Pixar film, but it is definitely a winner. These guys are no slouches when it comes to turning out quality movies. I am just amazed at the run they have had ever since they began. This will definitely be added to my collection when it is released and will surely enter regular rotation.




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